- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published its proposed changes to hours-of-service (HOS) regulations in the trucking industry on Wednesday, more than two months after the agency originally planned to release the suggestions for public comment.
- The FMCSA's recommendations outline five changes to the regulations, which includes the ability to split up the required 10-hour break from driving into one break of at least seven hours in the sleeper berth and another break of no less than two hours spent either off duty or in the sleeper berth.
- Drivers will now be allowed to fulfill their 30-minute break requirement with "on-duty, not driving status," which is any time the driver is working but not driving, so time spent loading freight or doing paperwork could count. But one off-duty break will be able to pause the driver's 14-hour time window during which they're only allowed to drive for 11 hours.
HOS rules have been in place in the trucking industry since 1937, but truckers have increasingly spoken up against them in the wake of regulations requiring electronic logging devices (ELD). As a result, many drivers have asked for flexibility in the HOS rules, and federal regulators have adopted their language when talking about the changes they're suggesting to the rules.
"This proposed rule seeks to enhance safety by giving America’s commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time," U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a statement.
Jannine Miller, the deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy at the Department of Transportation, said earlier this year that changes to HOS regulations were the most important regulatory change the agency was considering under this administration with regards to freight movement in the country.
In May, the FMCSA said this proposal would be published in early June. But the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has been reviewing the changes. Chao said in March the DOT had sent the changes to OMB.
The five proposed rule changes
|Split sleeper berth||A driver can use the sleeper berth to get 10 consecutive hours off duty. But the driver must spend at least eight hours (no more than 10 hours) in the berth, which does not count toward the 14-hour window. A second period has to be at least two consecutive hours (but less than 10 hours) and would count toward the 14-hour window.||The 10-hour break requirement could be split into two: One break of at least seven hours in the sleeper berth and another break of no less than two hours spent either off duty or in sleeper berth. Neither counts toward the 14-hour driving window.|
|Split duty period||Once on duty a 14-hour clock starts runs continuously. Once 14-hours is up the driver can't operate a commercial motor vehicle again for at least 10 hours.||The driver can take one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but no longer than three hours, that would stop the clock on the 14-hour window.|
|30-minute break||A driver must take a 30-minute off-duty break if more than eight hours have passed since the last off-duty break of at least 30 minutes.||The 30-minute break requirement can be satisfied by "on-duty, not driving" time.|
|Adverse driving conditions||Drivers can drive their truck two additional hours beyond the maximum time allowed, but this doesn't extend the 14-hour window.||Drivers can extend their 14-hour window by two hours during adverse driving conditions.|
|Short haul||Drivers using the short-haul exemption can't be on duty more than 12 hours and cannot drive beyond a 100 air-mile radius.||The maximum on-duty window increases from 12 hours to 14 hours and extends the distance drivers can operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.|
The American Trucking Associations (ATA), whose members include large national carriers, came out in support of the agency's effort to provide more flexibility to drivers and said it will review the changes.
"We look forward to studying and understanding how these proposed changes will impact our industry so we can provide relevant data and information to strengthen and support a good final rule that bolsters safety and provides drivers needed flexibility," ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said in a press release.
The FMCSA said these changes, specifically those made to the 30-minute break, will reduce the number of drivers required to take a break and result in cost savings for carriers as a result of increased driver productivity. The agency estimates this cost-saving would total more than $274 million in savings for the industry as a whole. (The agency calculated this using the current hours required to be off duty, which could change to on-duty but not driving with these new rules; an estimation of motor carrier profit margin; and the marginal cost of operating a commercial motor vehicle.)
These changes are currently open for public comment for a 45-day period, which began Wednesday. After this, the FMCSA will review every comment to inform a final rule, which the agency will send to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation, and then to OMB. If OMB signs off on the final rule it will go back to the Secretary to be signed again before being finalized and posted on the federal register.