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Hours-of-service changes have arrived

On Thursday, May 14, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) officially announced its long-awaited Final Rule to update the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. This rulemaking process, which had been “fast tracked” by the Trump Administration, has taken roughly two years to complete.

The initial Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) was published on August 23, 2018, and the subsequent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was published almost exactly a year later on August 22, 2019. The typical rulemaking process takes up to four years.

TCA and the larger trucking industry have been anxiously waiting to see what the Final Rule will include. Our primary interest has always been to ensure sleeper berth flexibility is fully implemented. In the new Final Rule, FMCSA has modified the current sleeper-berth requirements to allow drivers to take their required 10 hours off-duty in two periods, with one period lasting at least two hours and the other lasting at least seven consecutive hours spent in the sleeper berth. While TCA would prefer to see full sleeper berth flexibility, with drivers able to take their 10-hour rest break in any combination of intervals, we do believe the new flexibility is a step in the right direction and could help collect the necessary data to justify full flexibility in the future.

Additionally, FMCSA’s Final Rule has essentially eliminated the 30-minute break requirement for most drivers. The break is now only required in situations where a driver has driven for a period of eight hours without at least a 30-minute interruption. As TCA noted in our comments in response to the NPRM, “it is highly unlikely that a truckload driver would drive for eight hours straight without taking another break equivalent to 30 minutes.”

Because of this, TCA advocates for removing the 30-minute break completely. FMCSA will now also allow the 30-minute break requirement to be satisfied with a non-driving period, either off duty, in the sleeper berth, or on-duty not-driving.

These are just two of the four HOS changes announced by FMCSA. The agency is also moving forward with adjustments to the adverse driving provision and the short-haul exemption. The Final Rule will be effective 120 days after it is formally published in the Federal Register, which is expected sometime during the week of May 18. TCA thanks FMCSA for moving quickly to finalize this rulemaking process, and we look forward to seeing benefits from added flexibility moving forward.