“FMCSA’s proposed rule on changes to the hours-of-service regulations is currently being...

“FMCSA’s proposed rule on changes to the hours-of-service regulations is currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget,” an agency spokeperson told HDT.

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has slated publication of its notice of proposed rulemaking on changes to the Hours of Service rule for June 7. FMCSA also advised that it plans to then take comments on the NPRM until July 26.

Those dates are per the latest “Significant Rulemaking Report,” posted monthly by the Department of Transportation, and are not legally binding.

Posting a publication date officially indicates that the advance notice of proposed rulemaking (aka a “pre-rule”) on HOS reform that FMCSA issued back on Aug. 23 is slated to become a notice of proposed rulemaking.

“FMCSA’s proposed rule on changes to the hours-of-service regulations is currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget,” an agency spokeperson told HDT. “The timeline included in the Department’s April regulatory update reflects FMCSA’s goal to move quickly during this rulemaking process and the Agency is hopeful that goal will be achieved.”

When it put out the pre-rule, FMCSA said it was doing so in response to “widespread congressional, industry, and citizen concerns and seeks feedback from the public to determine if HOS revisions may alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers while maintaining safety on our nation’s highways and roads.”

The ANPRM sought to ask questions and take comments on four areas of the HOS rule under consideration for revision by the agency:

  • Expanding the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers
  • Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to 2 hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions
  • Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after 8 hours of continuous driving
  • Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment

In addition, the pre-rule sought public comment and relevant data on two recently submitted petitions requesting regulatory relief pertaining to the 14-hour on-duty limitation (which was filed by the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association) and regarding the 10-hour off-duty requirement (filed by TruckerNation, an advocacy group).

The ANPR’s comment period, which was extended, ultimately closed on Oct. 10, after garnering over 5,200 comments.

As is typical in the rulemaking process, no one at the agency has indicated what changes may be made to the HOS rule ahead of the NPRM’s release— only what is being considered for revision.

As for a clue, consider that in a recent speech, FMCSA chief Ray Martinez advised that data gleaned from truck operators who are fully compliant with the electronic logging device mandate is informing the agency’s effort to propose HOS changes.

“A benefit of the ELD [mandate] is the opportunity to review hours of service,” Adminsitrator Martinez said in his address at the Truckload Carriers Association’s annual meeting in Las Vegas on March 12. 

Noting that preliminary ELD data shows reductions in HOS violations, which suggests less fatigued and safer drivers, he said those positive results have “put a spotlight on something [HOS] that really has not been looked at in 15 years,” highlighting where changes to the rule may be warranted. The point being, he said, that as that time has passed, “Commerce has changed. Technology has changed. And your business has changed.”

As for those 5,200-plus comments on the pre-rule, Martinez said, “We put it out there to get unvarnished comment. And boy, did we…. getting over 5,000 comments is significant, including the quality [of thought] and thoroughness that were expressed.” He said the comments focused heavily on known pain points with HOS, including the 30-minute rest break and sleeper-berth provisions of the rule.

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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