TCA recently filed comments in support of a proposed pilot program from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to study adding a 3-hour pause to the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. This proposed pause would give professional truck drivers the option to take a single off-duty break of between 30 minutes and 3 consecutive hours which could then be excluded from the 14-hour driving window, provided the driver has at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift. FMCSA believes a single pause of up to 3 hours would provide significantly more flexibility than is allowed under the current rules and would allow drivers to take an off-duty break without fear of exhausting their available hours under the 14-hour clock. This break could also provide drivers a way to get additional rest or avoid traffic congestion.
In our comments, TCA noted that over-the-road drivers in the truckload industry overwhelmingly use their sleeper berths to obtain adequate rest and as such may not readily take advantage of the 3-hour pause. However, this pilot program could provide data to the contrary, and we cannot know for sure until the data is collected. This demonstrates why pilot programs are so critical to the rulemaking process – federal agencies which move forward with implementing policies without fully collecting and analyzing available data could shut out options that would prove very valuable to industry and which would improve safety at the same time. There is simply no way to know until the data is collected.
TCA has consistently supported pilot program data collection efforts by FMCSA, especially when it comes to hours of service. We were thrilled when the Agency announced several years ago that it would implement a pilot program to study adding full sleeper berth flexibility into the HOS regulations. We believed this program would provide the necessary data to justify 6/4 and 5/5 split-sleeper berth options, in addition to the 7/3 split which was recently added back into the regulations through FMCSA’s latest Final Rule. Unfortunately, in their effort to “fast track” the Final Rule, FMCSA ended this important pilot program and neglected to gather the necessary data that would justify further flexibility.
Now that FMCSA is pursuing the pilot program on the 3-hour pause, TCA is hopeful that this is a positive sign for the revival of the sleeper berth pilot. Furthermore, the data collected through electronic logging devices will help paint a more accurate picture of how drivers will utilize the added flexibility in their sleeper berths and whether this will enable them to rest and therefore fight fatigue on their own schedules. TCA will continue voicing our support of FMCSA’s data collection efforts and we hope to see more pilot programs established by the agency in the near future.