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FMCSA to consider easing 14-hour driving window restrictions

Pilot project to investigate whether drivers will be pressured to use proposed off-duty break to cover detention time

Off-duty break would allow drivers to extend 14-hour driving window. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is considering allowing drivers one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes — but not more than three hours — that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window.

The FMCSA announced Friday it would consider the change, which includes a stipulation that the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off duty at the end of the work shift, through a three-year pilot program. Details of the proposal can be viewed here.

“Truckers are American heroes — they keep our supply chain moving, they carry essential goods we need to maintain our daily lives,” said U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in announcing the program.

“The department is seeking public comments on providing additional flexibility for truckers as they work to serve our country during this public health crisis. FMCSA wants to hear directly from drivers about the possibility and safety of an hours-of-service pause pilot program.”

The study group would include drivers from small, medium, and large carriers, as well as independent owner-operators. FMCSA is estimating the desired sample size in the final study design to be between 200 and 400 drivers over a period of up to three years, with individual driver participation potentially limited to a period of six months or one year.

Owner-operators would have to be leased to a single carrier and obtain the carrier’s approval to be eligible to participate.

To qualify for the pilot, carriers must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Must have proper operating authority and registration; 
  • Must have the minimum levels of financial responsibility, if applicable; 
  • Must not be a high or moderate risk motor carrier; 
  • Must not have a conditional or unsatisfactory safety rating; 
  • Must not have any enforcement actions within the past 3 years; 
  • Must not have a crash rate above the national average; 
  • Must not have a driver Out of Service (OOS) rate above the national average; and 
  • Must not have a vehicle OOS rate above the national average.

The pause in the 14-hour driving window had been considered as part of other changes to driver HOS but did not make it into the final rule announced in May (which go into effect on Sept. 29) based on comments the agency received.

“Many commenters…believed that drivers would be pressured by carriers, shippers, or receivers to use the break to cover detention time, which would not necessarily provide the driver an optimal environment for restorative rest,” FMCSA acknowledged. “This suggests that the pause could have unintended consequences that were not adequately evaluated” as the other rule changes were developed, the agency stated. However, “FMCSA continues to believe that an opportunity for a single off-duty pause in the 14-hour driving window could provide flexibility for drivers without compromising safety.”

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  1. Jon P Decker

    I’m not joyful about eld logs and I think when we do take a break and off duty. Your clock should stop. And we should be allowed a t least one hour safety detention for safe parking in case of heavy traffic or accidents holding us up from getting to where we need to be. Instead of parking on the side of roads or on/off ramps. That causes safety hazards

  2. Robert

    I fill we should go back too paper logs. Thanks to them folks in Dallas tx. The trucking company that started all this mess yrs AGO. We see they blue trucks every day out here on the roads and on the back of there trailers they have a sticker that say no more paper logs. Yes im talking about Warner enterprise. Them FOLKS right there started this e-logging mess and DOT SEEN FIT FOR THEM TOO MAKE MONEY FOR THE STATE AND COUNTY’S THEY WORK FOR. SO I AGREE THIS MESS NEEDS TO BE DONE AWAY WITH. I FILL WE ALL NEED TOO SHUT THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY DOWN FOR A YEAR AND LET’S SEE HOW THEY FILL THEN WHEN THERE’S NO FOOD AROUND NO GAS ETC. I WOULD LOVE 2 SEE THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY SHUTDOWN AND STRICK FOR A WHOLE YEAR.

  3. Mike

    This 30 minute break rule crap is one of the worst things ever when it comes to trucking because any real truck driver out here will tell you that we take breaks when we are trying to keep moving to make money but get held at a shipper or receiver so what are we doing while waiting. I think we are taking break so I think that the people sitting down making up these laws could have possibly never have driven a truck. I think you try to do to much when implementing laws when it’s not that difficult. You say drive 11 hours in a day cool and not go over 70 hours ok but let us determine how we going to do it and as long as we stay on track with that we should be good because everybody doesn’t function the same. What you have to realize is drivers have a lot on their mind when rolling 80 thousand pounds down the road and should be run freely knowing they can stop and rest as need be without worrying about splits and all that other extra as long as you see 10 hours in some way because sometimes you need that power nap and it sounds crazy when you put a minimum on someone to be in a sleeper.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.