August 14, 2019

FMCSA proposes changes to hours-of-service rule

Agency seeks public comment on changes designed to give truck drivers more flexibility and improve safety.

By DC Velocity Staff

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today issued proposed changes to the commercial driver hours-of-service (HOS) rule that aim to give truck drivers more flexibility and improve safety on U.S roadways. 

FMCSA's notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) will appear in the Federal Register on Monday, August 19, and will be followed by a 45-day public comment period, FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez said during a press conference detailing the changes. 

FMCSA's proposal includes five changes to the HOS rule: 

  • Tying drivers' 30-minute required rest break to eight hours of driving time and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not driving, status;
  • Modifying the sleeper-berth exception so that drivers can split their required 10 hours off duty into either seven- and three-hour periods or eight- and two-hour periods, neither of which counts against their 14-hour workday;
  • Allowing drivers to take an off-duty break of at least 30 minutes but not more than three hours that would pause the driver's 14-hour driving workday.  
  • Extending the adverse driving conditions exception by two hours;
  • Changing the short-haul exception by lengthening the maximum on-duty time from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

The proposal comes a year after the FMCSA requested public comments and then conducted a review of what many in the industry labled much-needed changes brought to light by the elctronic logging devices (ELD) mandate, which was designed to monitor compliance with the HOS rule. The agency recieved more than 5,000 public comments on the issue, FMCSA officials said, most reflecting driver frustration and a feeling that they were "racing against the clock" to meet a set of complex requirements. Martinez said the proposed changes reflect "what drivers are finding in their daily work" and acknowledge that they need flexibility to do their jobs safely and efficiently. 

Martinez says the FMCSA hopes to get to a final rule "as quickly as possible" and emphasized the importance of public input during the 45-day comment period.

"FMCSA wants drivers and all [commercial motor vehicle] stakeholders to share their thoughts and opinions on the proposed changes to hours of service rules that we are putting forward today," Martinez said in a separate statement. "We listened directly to the concerns of drivers for rules that are safer and have more flexibility—and we have acted.  We encourage everyone to review and comment on this proposal."

The Federal Register notice, including how to submit comments, is available here.

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