Federal restrictions on truck drivers’ hours of service (HoS) caps are set to loosen tomorrow, allowing fleets more flexibility in managing the number of hours their drivers are allowed to haul freight.
The move follows several rulings by regulators at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to temporarily loosen such limits under a national state of emergency declared in March during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. The new rollout makes some of those changes permanent, with leaders at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) saying the changes are needed to “alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers while maintaining safety on our nation’s highways and roads.”
Transportation industry groups such as the the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) have applauded the new policies, saying they balance safety and flexibility by making “smart changes” to portions of the rules while maintaining the core limitations on drivers’ work and rest cycles.
However, truck drivers’ union the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has fought the changes, saying they deliver broad legal latitude to trucking companies in exchange for sacrificing driver safety and encouraging employers to push drivers to the limit.
Whoever is right, the change may be welcomed by shippers and retailers, who are facing a historically tight market for freight capacity as pandemic health restrictions conflict with booming rates of e-commerce demand, even as the nation barrels toward increased volumes during the winter peak shopping season.
Under the new regulations taking effect September 29, specific changes includes four areas of HOS rules reform, according to Teletrac Navman, a cloud-based, fleet tracking software provider based in California. “The changes in hours of service reform are really a culmination of data collection from the FMCSA along with many, many industry associations throughout many, many years regarding fatigue, and how fatigue affects motor vehicle drivers,” Teletrac Navman’s Oswaldo Flores, product manager for HOS and electronic logging devices (ELDs), said in a video summarizing the impacts of the new rules.
According to Teletrac Navman, the changes will affect four general areas of driving regulations: