- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on Tuesday announced it is seeking public comment on various elements of the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations for truck drivers for 30 days, beginning August 21.
- The agency is accepting comments to consider changing four areas: the 100 air-mile "short haul" exemption; on-duty exemptions during adverse driving conditions; the mandatory 30-minute rest break; and whether to reinstate the option to split a 10-hour off-duty rest break for sleeper-enabled trucks.
- The first in a series of public listening sessions on the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will take place Friday, August 24, 2018, in Dallas.
Electronic logging devices (ELDs) and the driving time restrictions they are meant to enforce have been a hot-button issue since the mandate went into effect in December 2017, and attempts to fight the rules in court in addition to protests have been unsuccessful in changing them. But, requesting public comment from carriers and truckers is the first sign from the FMCSA that there may be some room to move on the controversial restrictions on driving and break times.
As of publication, 154 comments have been submitted through the Regulations.gov site, along with two industry organization petitions. The comments, which are not necessarily all from industry stakeholders or drivers since any member of the public is able to comment and stated identities are not verifiable, run the gambit from supporting the hour of service restrictions and dismissing any opposition as a disregard for safety concerns, to strong disapproval for the government mandated breaks and caps on hours. The majority of people providing comments oppose the regulations.
"Drivers do not wish to be awarded with more than 14 hours of on duty time a day but only to be able to have flexibility based on their own professional assessment, which would drastically decrease the likelihood of driver fatigue and 5 HOS violations associated with exceeding daily allotments of drive time," wrote Tony Justice, founder and director of TruckerNation.org, an organization he claims has 24,000 members, and is largely built on social media platforms.
Many drivers who commented say the 30-minute break mandated after every eight-hour stretch of driving is too restrictive and unrealistic in the reality of receiving docks and making deliveries. In fact, multiple commenters noted the rest of the supply chain appears to be unaware of or uncooperative with these time restrictions. Regarding the mandatory break, Stephen McCollum of Colt, Arkansas said, "No need for that when shoppers and receivers will not cooperate and could care less."
Several commenters mentioned there are too many variables, including weather and road work, that could possibly interfere to mandate a break after eight hours.
"I feel as though some of these rules and regulations have been put in place by people that have never seen the inside of a truck let alone have lived months if not years, and sometimes decades out on the road," wrote Joel Silverman of New York, who added he had been driving for decades and now manages a fleet of nine trucks.
Indeed, The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which is "fundamentally opposed" to the ELD mandate, agrees, writing in a posted letter on the commenting site that the government "has repeatedly burdened small-business truckers with a one-size-fits-all approach that quite simply does not work."
A small fleet manager from Canada added that managing a fleet that crosses borders has become especially difficult since the ELD mandate was enacted. "The US rules are very restrictive and leave no room for real life scenarios we face every day in trucking. The Canadian rules allow for greater flexibility," wrote Brian Botham of Gormley, Ontario, Canada.
Back in May, several members of the House Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation wrote a letter to FMCSA Administrator Raymond Martinez in support of changing the HOS rules. Martinez, appointed by President Donald Trump, has been a supporter of the mandate.
Announcing the comment period, Martinez said that there was "no guarantee" this process will lead to changes in the rules, reported Commercial Carrier Journal. "We’re encouraging everyone who has a stake in this to come forward and participate," he said. "It’s very open. This is an opportunity. Hours of service have not been seriously addressed in 15 years."