Not quite so fast. Two trucking stakeholder groups want the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to extend the public comment period for the agency’s proposal to reform the Hours of Service rule for truck drivers. The 45-day comment period is set to end on Oct. 7.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, which speaks for law enforcement officers who conduct roadside commercial-vehicle, inspections, was first out of the gate on this with a petition filed on Aug. 22. CVS wants to add 45 days to the existing comment period, doubling it to 90 days in full.
CVSA Executive Director Collin Mooney stated in the petition that 45 days is “not adequate time to prepare and approve comments on such a complicated and important issue… to provide comments that will contribute to a comprehensive, well informed, science and data-based NPRM [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking], it is imperative that stakeholders be given additional time to develop their comments.”
The American Trucking Associations’ petition, filed on Aug. 27, seeks only a 30-day extension of the comment period, but offers a more detailed rationale for the request. ATA Vice President of Safety Daniel Horvath stated in the petition that, “Because the impacts of proposed HOS regulations will vary depending on the type of carrier operation, ATA is concerned that there will be insufficient time within the current comment period to coordinate with our members and develop comments on this important NPRM.”
He noted that the NPRM “requests specific feedback on company operations, including data and potential impacts resulting from the proposed changes, which will take time to compile and review in order to ensure its accuracy. Consistent with 49 CFR § 389.19, the complexity of the issues presented in the NPRM constitutes good cause for allowing additional time to comment and to ensure that accurate data can be obtained from our members.”
Horvath also pointed out that ATA’s annual Management Conference and Exhibition will be held on October 5-8 and during that event, ATA’s Safety Policy Committee will meet to discuss the NPRM. “Extending the comment period an additional 30 days will allow ATA to incorporate this feedback into public comments,” he said.
On Aug. 14, FMCSA published its proposal on reforming the hours of service rule aimed at offering more flexibility.
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 at the time that the proposed rule would not increase driving time and would continue to prevent truckers from driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute change in duty status.