On Aug. 14, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published an eagerly awaited proposal on changes to hours of service rules that would offer more flexibility.
First adopted in 1937, hours of service rules specify the permitted operating hours of commercial drivers and have been through several time-consuming revisions. The mandate requiring electronic logging of those hours that went into effect in December 2017 highlighted some of the shortcomings in how those rules work in the real world.
So in 2018, FMCSA, through an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, asked for public comment on portions of the hours of service rules. The agency received more than 5,200 public comments.
Based on those detailed comments, FMCSA proposed five key revisions to the existing HOS rules:
- Changing the 30-minute break requirement to require a break after eight hours of uninterrupted driving time, not on-duty time, and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty/not driving status, rather than off-duty. So if a driver has to take a break to fuel up, grab a cup of coffee, use the restroom, etc., that can count as the required break.
- Allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off-duty into two periods: one period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of not less than two consecutive hours, either off-duty or in the sleeper berth. This would allow a 7/3 or an 8/2 split. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.
- Allow one 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.
- Modify the adverse driving conditions exception, adding two hours to the maximum window during which driving is permitted. The current rule allows for that extra two hours of driving time but it still must be within the maximum 14-hour workday. The proposal would allow that workday to be extended to as much as 16 hours in the case of adverse conditions such as extreme weather or congestion. The definition of "adverse driving" would not change.
- Change 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.
The agency emphasized in a press release that the proposed rule would not increase driving time and would continue to prevent CMV operators from driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute change in duty status.
FMCSA says the proposed changes are estimated provide $274 million in savings for the U.S. economy and American consumers.
The public comment period will be open for 45 days.
The Federal Register Notice, including how to submit comments, is available here: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/regulations/hours-service/474821/nprmfile08-08-2019-131534.pdf.
Updated 11:25 EDT to add examples/clarifications to some of the proposed changes.