If you’re one of the many people in the trucking industry who has been wishing for more flexibility in the hours-of-service regulations, here’s your chance.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced its eagerly awaited proposal to update the regulations that govern the hours truckers drive, work, and rest. As the agency continues to try to “fast-track” these changes, the comment period is only 45 days. The regulation was scheduled for official publication on or about Aug. 19, which means by the time you read this, there’s not much time left to comment.
The proposals seem to be a reasonable response to complaints from drivers and fleets alike that the HOS revision put into place in 2011 had some real problems with how the rules worked in the real world – especially since the electronic logging mandate that went into effect in December 2017 has highlighted problem areas that previously were masked by a little fudging of paper logs and less-restrictive e-log systems.
“Drivers face congestion, parking issues, unexpected adverse conditions – and they need some flexibility,” FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said in a conference call with reporters. “It may have been felt they were racing the clock, especially those on AOBRDs and ELDs [electronic logs to monitor their hours of service]. And that was not the intent of the implementation of [mandatory] ELDs. It’s not supposed to encourage driving in situations where you are already fatigued to race the clock. We hope that by providing flexibility, it puts a little more power back in the hands of drivers and carriers to make smart decisions regarding safety and the reality of what they’re facing on the roadways.”
The agency emphasized that the proposed changes would not increase allowable driving time. There are five key areas of proposed changes:
- Change 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 split. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14-hour driving window.
- Allow drivers to “pause” the 14-hour on-duty clock with one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than three hours, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift. This would address concerns with loading/unloading delays and waiting out rush hour congestion.
- Modify the adverse driving conditions exception, adding two hours to the on-duty clock in addition to the current additional two hours that the driving time can be stretched to accommodate bad weather or other adverse conditions.
- Change the short-haul exception, lengthening the drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit for the exception from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.
FMCSA estimated the changes would save $274 million for consumers and the economy.
Martinez emphasized that this is just a proposal, and subject to change before a final rule is published. The Truck Safety Coalition has already said it plans to file comments against the changes.
“We want to hear from the American people,” Martinez said.