Changes to truck driver hours of service rules, designed to offer drivers more flexibility, take effect at 12 a.m. eastern time on Sept. 29.
The rules take effect at the same time regardless of time zone, meaning they will go into effect earlier for drivers in other time zones – drivers on the West Coast, for instance, will start operating under the new rules at 9 p.m. Sept. 28.
The changes, which were announced in May, made four key revisions to the HOS rules:
1. The 30-minute break rule, which previously required a break after no more than eight hours of on-duty time, now must be taken after no more than eight hours of consecutive driving time. In addition, the break requirement may be satisfied by the on-duty/not driving status, rather than off-duty status. That means a driver’s “break” could be satisfied by stopping to fuel the truck, for instance.
2. The sleeper berth rules, which previously only allowed a split of the required 10 hours of off-duty time up to two hours for the shorter split period, will now allow drivers to take up to three hours for the shorter split period, with neither period counting against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.
3. The new rule changes the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted. The current rule allows for an extra two hours of driving time, but it still had to be within the maximum 14-hour workday. The new rule allows the workday to be extended to as much as 16 hours in the case of adverse conditions such as extreme weather or congestion.
4. The agency will expand the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on‑duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.
Agency officials emphasized that the rule changes do not increase driving time and will continue to prevent CMV operators from driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute break.
One change that was included in last year’s proposed rule that did not make the final cut was allowing an off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than three hours, that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour on-duty window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift. This would allow, for instance, drivers to take up to a three-hour break to wait out rush hour, without it affecting their maximum on-duty time.
However, the agency recently proposed a pilot program to study the effects of allowing drivers to pause their on-duty driving period with one off-duty period up to three hours.