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FMCSA proposes hours-of-service changes; estimates $274 million savings for economy

Drivers could see more flexibility in five key work-rule areas. Credit: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed major changes to the trucking hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, which if implemented would give carriers and drivers more flexibility in how they operate.

The long-awaited proposal resulted from operational restrictions caused by the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate that went into effect between December 2017 and April 2018.

“This proposed rule seeks to enhance safety by giving America’s commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time,” commented U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in unveiling the changes on August 14.

“We listened directly to the concerns of drivers for rules that are safer and have more flexibility – and we have acted,” commented FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez. “We encourage everyone to review and comment on this proposal.”

FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez. Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

The rulemaking seeks public comment on five key changes to the regulation:

  • Increasing flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by tying the break requirement to eight hours of driving time without an interruption for at least 30 minutes, and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not driving status, rather than off-duty.
  • Modifying the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth; and the other period of not less than two consecutive hours, either off duty or in the sleeper berth. According to the proposal, neither period would count against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.
  • Allowing 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, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift.
  • Modifying the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
  • Changing the short-haul exception by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on‑duty period from 12 hours to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

In noting that the proposed changes are also meant to improve safety, FMCSA pointed out that the operational flexibility provided by the changes would provide an estimated $274 million in savings for the U.S. economy and American consumers. In addition, the rule changes “would not increase driving time and would continue to prevent [commercial drivers] from driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute change in duty status,” according to the agency.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) praised the government’s initiative to consider revisions to the current rules. “We look forward to studying and understanding how these proposed changes will impact our industry so we can provide relevant data and information to strengthen and support a good final rule that bolsters safety and provides drivers needed flexibility,” said ATA President Chris Spear said in a statement.

A public comment period will be open for 45 days after the proposed rulemaking is published in the Federal Register.


  1. Kevin Bond

    The FMCSA Administration or any of the cronies involved didn’t listen to drivers and respond. They only responded when it affects big businesses. I say, “they dug this hole so let them live in it”. Keep driving like the current rules exist and make them really LISTEN to the drivers.

  2. Samuel Gallezzo

    These proposed changes are just going to put more power in the hands of everyone but the drivers. If you look at it logically making any changes admits that the current HOS are bullshit. With the advent of mandatory electronic logs DOT has been losing money big time. So much so that it’s been a year since I’ve had a level 1 inspection. Revenue has also decreased for carriers meaning that they were cheating paper logs before the electronic mandate. These new rules will only hurt drivers by allowing them to be worked longer hours and loosening the protections of the STAA an the Anti coercion laws. My prediction…more accidents and drivers leaving the profession. If you want to make trucking safer stop paying by the mile and ask drivers what is needed to improve hours of service.

  3. Barry EPDA

    In Europe we have an electronic log ( Tachograph) our HOS are as follows. After 4.5 hours iof driving a rest break of 45mins must be taken. This break can be split if the first part is not less than 15 mins and the second is not less than 30 mins. Regular drive time in any one day is 9 hours. It can be e extended twice a week to a max of 10 hours. Maximum daily work spread 15 hours ( from the time you click on until you click off). Regular daily rest 11 hours. This can be feduced to 9 hours but only three times in a two week period.
    The maximum driving time in any one week is 56 hours the maximum driving time in any 2 consexutive weeks is 90 hours. We have to take 45 hours off every week. It can be reduced to 24 but any reduced hours must be added to a 45 hour break by the end of the third week.
    The rules can be very restrictive and of course there are times when you are fit to drive and the clock says no you cant and there are times when you are not fit to drive the the clock says go go go.
    Overall however the restrictions do stop drivers from being burned out by the haulage industry. The issue we have here is that we are not consulted with when changes are being made. It seems that it is the same in the US.
    Of interest, we don’t differentiate between drivers. All driver are the same here. The Driver with 30 years + experience is the a yes the same as the driver who received their commercial licence last week. Is it the same in the USA?

  4. RandyJaramillo

    Frieghtwaves, question for you, why is no one talking about the mandatory switch to drive line upon GPS movement. Movement in a shippers yard or at a consingee yard should NOT constitute drive time. Or is FMSCA gonna make shippers or cosignee’s change how they are doing things?

  5. Will

    I’m confused, so 8 hours of drive time? Does that not include all the stops throughout the day? The 15 stops would add up to 5 to 6 hours. That leaves 8 hours total for driving. If i’m understanding things right that means no extra 30 min shutdown?

Comments are closed.

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.