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Key takeaways from the FMCSA HOS listening session in Joplin

Quade, Martinez, and Deck listening to truck drivers.

On Friday afternoon, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Ray Martinez, joined by Wiley Deck, FMCSA Director of Government Affairs, and Bill Quade, Associate Administrator for Enforcement, conducted a public listening session in Joplin, MO. The purpose of the session was to allow transportation industry participants—primarily truck drivers and fleet owners—to offer feedback on the FMCSA’s proposed rule changes to the hours of service regulations. Check out the full 90 minute listening session here.

There was a palpable sense of gratitude and optimism among truck drivers that Administrator Martinez was really engaged in trying to fix the hours of service regulations to make them more flexible and to help drivers stay safe.

Indeed, the word of the day was: flexibility, flexibility, flexibility. Notably, Martinez used the verb ‘reform’ to describe his Administration’s work on the HOS, not a milder word like ‘change’ or ‘revision’.

Martinez emphasized that the FMCSA was trying to reform HOS as quickly as possible. He noted that when FMCSA bureaucrats told Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao that the timeline for adopting a new regulation was normally three to four years, Chao said that was unacceptable.

“We’re moving as quickly as possible to reform hours of service,” said Martinez. “Everyone wants flexibility because there’s a safety issue.”

At the beginning of the session, Quade outlined the four specific areas the FMCSA wanted comments on. The first was the short haul hours of service exemption (100 air miles radius with no log), which applies if a driver can get off duty within 12 hours. Quade said the FMCSA was considering lengthening that to 14 hours. Quade also said that the way additional time can be added to on-duty driving for adverse driving conditions does not necessarily help a driver who’s up against their 14 clock, so the administration was looking to expand that. Eliminating the mandatory 30 minute rest break was on the table, and of course Quade mentioned one of the most consequential potential changes—the return of the split sleeper berth, which would allow drivers to rest when they’re tired and go off duty to avoid traffic. 

“I’d like to compliment you, Mr. Martinez,” Mark Elrod, an owner-operator began. “In my personal opinion you’ve done more in the short time you’ve been in this position than the past administrator did in the whole time and you seem to be more willing to make the situation better for truckers rather than just pad your resume, so thank you for that.” Then Elrod asked the FMCSA officials for clarification on personal conveyance.

The biggest change was previously the vehicle had to be unladen, but now we’re recognizing that we can have personal conveyance in laden situations,” said Quade. “[Lack of a distance limit] law enforcement community is not comfortable with necessarily. Take notes, annotate your duty status, and be able to make your case to a reasonable person.”

“If you’re going to apply safety to what you do, you need to think about the drivers first as well the other people on the road,” said Steve Davenport, an owner-operator and member of OOIDA.

“Moving from 12 to 14 hours on shorthaul is brilliant. Thank you,” said Doug Smith, an owner-operator and member of OOIDA. “The 30 minute rest break is redundant because we always have to park and wait for something,” Smith explained.

“It’s critical that the agency understand that no two days [for a truck driver] are the same,” said Andrea Marks, director of communications for Trucker Nation. “If a driver was utilizing hours of service as proposed in the Trucker Nation petition, it’s unlikely they’d use their hours of service the same way every day because critical safety decisions must be based on the current situation, not on a number of rigid and inflexible hours. It is imperative that the agency be 100% committed to providing relief and flexibility to the professional driver.”

Dave Foster, an owner-operator with 4.4M miles wanted the 14 hour clock extended to 16-7, and commented that split sleeper might be able to help the parking situation.

Michael Gully, the CEO of Gully Transportation, said that accidents have climbed since the implementation of ELDs. “Now drivers are operating legally, but they’re also operating unsafely,” Gully said. “Drivers on ELDs take more chances than they ever did… the drivers out here need your help, to get this fixed so we can operate safely,” he said. 

Holly O’Donnell, an owner-operator who has driven for 19 years and recently returned to team driving with her husband, said split sleeping would made it easier for teams to switch out drivers and keep their truck rolling.

Justin Virgil commented, “I haul feed for animals and livestock… shorthaul [exemption] should be up to 200 miles because you still return to your origin every night.”

Philip Barnett said he came to the United States in 1986 from Communist Slovakia. Barnett cut to the heart of the matter and said, “Communists put in so many rules, you can’t breathe.”

 


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John Paul Hampstead, Associate Editor

John Paul writes about current events and economics, especially politics, finance, and commodities, and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. In previous lives John Paul studied Shakespeare in London and Buddhism in India, but now he focuses on transportation and logistics in the heart of Freight Alley--Chattanooga. He spends his free time with his wife and daughter herding cats, collecting books, and walking alongside the Tennessee River.

10 Comments

  1. Great,. I wonder how many "listening sessions" they need before they get it…..maybe they need a mandatory electronic hearing aid?

  2. Need to eliminate the 14 hour rule entirely. Last week I had 3 drops that totalled less than 100 miles between them and a pickup that was 35 miles from the last stop. By the time I got to my loading point I only had an hour left of my 14. Good thing the shipper had overnight parking. If it weren’t for the 14 hour rule I might have had a productive day after reloading, but as it was I only got less than 150 miles for the whole day. What a waste of my valuable time the 14 hour rule is. My time and every other long haul trucker out here. Thanks for that FMCSA. You’ve done nothing to help our productivity.

  3. Split the Mandatory 30 minute break. It’s difficult to find a safe parking area late at night if u on a red eye run. Splitting the 30 minutes into two brief breaks at two different areas would remedy that issue.

  4. Allow a driver to utilize the 16 hour day option at least twice a week with at least 10 hours off duty/sleeper berth between them. Also increase the "No Log" per 100 miles radius to 200 miles if the driver is returning to his home base within 14 hours.

  5. Most of these people making these rules. Never been around a truck steering wheel a minute in their lives

  6. Listening sessions are wonderful,. If you’re truly listening. "Forever learning, ( or listening) but never coming to the knowledge of the truth". Is that you Mr FMCSA man??? You’ve listened long enough,. Fix it!

  7. I think we should be able to pause the 14 hr. rule when we are just sitting at the shipper for hours waiting to get loaded.

  8. Why Joplin? I think a more appropriate location would be at the Petro Truckstop in Raphine VA, at around 10pm, when drivers are in, and THAT truckstop has no more available parking spots. Then have a REAL listening session.

  9. Truth is every truck needs a way of being monitored,especially the 100 mile radius companies,because they work drivers hard for less pay.need more flexibility ,16 hours to drive 11 hours .

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