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.”
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.