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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