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FMCSA rejects driver’s hours-of-service exemption request

Leland Schmitt plans to try again after being told initial application came up short

Leland plans to resubmit his HOS request. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has rejected Leland Schmitt’s request to be exempt from federal hours-of-service regulations, but the Spring Valley, Wisconsin-based truck driver is not giving up, according to his wife.

“We knew [getting denied] could be a possibility, and obviously we’re upset,” Lisa Schmitt told FreightWaves on Tuesday. “But hopefully we will resubmit our application by the end of the day. We’re looking at other options as well. We’re not dropping this. FMCSA has to reasonably address the reasons that the request was denied, and we feel they haven’t done that.”

In his exemption request filed in January, Leland Schmitt asked to be exempt from several hours-of-service requirements, including the 10-hour consecutive off duty time, the 14-hour consecutive duty clock and the 30-minute rest break.

“The level of safety achieved by granting this exemption would be better than if complying with the regulations … because my body would receive the rest it needs, when it needs it,” Schmitt wrote. “This would be achieved because at the age of 50, I am able to recognize when my body needs rest and when I am safe enough to drive on the nation’s roadways. The level of safety under this exemption would be at least the same, if not more than it is now, based on my 30 years of safe driving experience.”

FMCSA asserted, however, that Schmitt failed to establish that he would maintain a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level achieved without the exemption.

“Research studies demonstrate that long work hours reduce sleep and harm driver health and that crash risk increases with work hours,” the agency stated in a decision set to publish in the Federal Register on Wednesday. “The HOS regulations impose limits on when and how long an individual may drive to ensure that drivers stay awake and alert and to reduce the possibility of cumulative fatigue.”

FMCSA also stated that it agreed with some of the close to 700 commenters to Schmitt’s application, pointing out that if the agency were to exempt an individual from the regulations “it could open the door for a huge number of similar exemption requests. Such a result would be inconsistent with a primary goal of the HOS regulations.”

But Lisa Schmitt argues that currently an individual can drive up to 13 hours within a 24-hour period. “We were only asking to drive 11 in a 24-hour period,” she said. “So if we’re driving less hours in a day, how can we be less safe?”

She said FMCSA was also wrong in contending that granting her husband’s application would prompt a flood of similar requests. 

“They opened the floodgates themselves by publishing an application that meets none of the exemption criteria [in the regulations],” she said, referring to an HOS exemption request filed later in the year.

Schmitt said her husband stopped driving in April because of high costs associated with the job, including increasing fuel and insurance costs — along with the inflexibility with the current HOS rules. That inflexibility has exacerbated problems associated with a lack of truck parking “and puts us at mercy of shippers and receivers,” she said.

“After 30 years, it’s not a fun environment to be out in. We came home, took the summer off and stocked up the pantry. But we want to go back on the road.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. Linda McClinton

    The Eld causes more accidents because the driver is trying to force themselves to drive within those hours even if they’re tired.
    Trucks are stopping on shoulders of the road for a 10 hour break which is very unsafe. Please go back to paper logs Please

  2. Anthony Wills

    I agree with allowing this man to control his clock. The FMSCA is over stepping every day on hard working truckers and their families. I say put these law makers in trucks for a month and let them deal with what we deal with. And maybe they would come away with a different tune.

  3. Adrian

    ELD’s don’t increase safety, only iritates drivers who are pushing even harder to make up miles. Remove this stupid ELD system, problem solved, everyone happy.

  4. Mike

    File an exemption the same as Livestock Haulers have. The DOT has gaven them an exemption on the grounds they couldn’t do their job in a safely manner using ELD, which also dont make sense.
    11 hours of driving is not enough period with all these heavy traffic we have all over the country now

    We as OO need more times of driving in order to have a safe envirnment
    on dailly basis end of the shift we are looking for a safe heaven to park and we also have lack of parking throughtout the country.

  5. Gary Mehl

    Just another alphabet agency over stepping it boundaries pushing its so called weight these government officials have no idea how this industry works they have not been out here doing our jobs for a life time have no idea but they think they can push asinine regulations and mandates as they see fit mandates are not law they have not been voted on or agreed upon by the populus the hours of service ,elds, are a money grab and have proven statisicaly to be unsafe but it’s all about control and the dollar bill of elitist and mega corporation there is discrimination across the border on their so called rules and regulations

  6. Richard Davis

    The Dot or the FMCSA said Livestock Haulers couldn’t do their job in a safe manner using ELDs and give them an exemption. Why wouldn’t that go for every truck driver? If they decline it, ask them why it is unsafe for livestock haulers and not for you or other types of trucking.

  7. Richard Davis

    File an exemption the same as Livestock Haulers have. The DOT gave them an exemption on the grounds they couldn’t do their job in a safe manner using an ELD.

  8. Marrazz Williams

    An extra 2 hours on the 11 hour drive time would be fair, and an 8 hours reset instead of 10 hours. Making 13 hours drive time 16 hours on duty and 2 hour extension If needed for road conditions/ weather conditions. However, certain individuals are professional enough to understand when it’s time to shut down to prevent any unsafe maneuvers. The FMCSA should reconsider the request.

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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.