Market Matters Blog

New Trucking Hours of Service Rule Compliance Nears

Mary Kennedy
By  Mary Kennedy , DTN Basis Analyst
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On June 1, FMCSA revised the hours of service (HOS) regulations to provide greater flexibility for drivers without adversely affecting safety. Motor carriers are required to comply with the new and final HOS regulations starting on Sept. 29 at 12:01 a.m. ET. (Photo by Mary Kennedy)

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hours of service rule has been in the news for several years as the agency has been trying to fine-tune the rule. First adopted in 1937, FMCSA's hours of service (HOS) rules specify the permitted operating hours of commercial motor vehicle drivers (CMV).

One of the most significant parts of the new rule allows drivers to split their daily required 10-hour off-duty time into segments longer than the current eight- and two-hour split.

According to Overdive magazine, "Effectively, given a rule change that allows the shorter period to be excluded from calculation of the 14-hour on-duty limit, those splits allow drivers to pause their 14-hour on-duty clock while taking a qualifying break of at least two hours in the middle of their shift. The rule also adds flexibility options around the use of the required 30-minute break, an expansion of the use of the adverse driving conditions exception and an expansion of the short-haul exception to the requirement to keep records of duty status (logbooks)."

For drivers opting to split any duty day, they must take one split of at least seven hours and one split of at least two hours, so long as both breaks total at least 10 hours.

According to FMCSA's Joe DeLorenzo, Acting Associate Administrator for Enforcement and Director of the FMCSA Office of Enforcement and Compliance, who spoke during a live webinar put on by Overdrive, "Both of those breaks are minimums, and we did that on purpose," DeLorenzo said. "The last thing we wanted to do was to disincentivize rest."

"Both of those breaks would stop the 14-hour on-duty clock, another key difference compared to current hours of service regs, as the shorter break allotted by the current 8/2 split option does count against drivers' on-duty time," said Overdive.

Since the final rule was published, various safety groups have filed petitions for reconsideration on the changes. The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers and the Truck Safety Coalition filed a petition in June. In the petition, joined by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the groups provided 10 pages of concerns and summarized their petition saying, "The Agency repeatedly justifies these drastic changes to the HOS rule, which will result in longer work days for drivers, by claiming that the revisions will provide greater operational flexibility to the industry while not increasing fatigue because the daily driving limits remains unchanged. This claim is contradicted by research on fatigue and the Agency's own previous conclusions on this issue.

"The Final Rule is not in the public interest and does not meet the agency's statutory mission in carrying out its duties to assign and maintain safety as the highest priority. The agency had failed to address the significant risk to public safety posed by fatigued drivers of CMVs at a time when large truck crashes continue to increase."

Here is a link to the entire petition: https://trucksafety.org/…

In response, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) commented on all the petitions.

"For many years, our members have repeatedly told lawmakers and the FMCSA that the existing hours-of-service rules are not sensible for today's trucking industry," OOIDA wrote in formal comments signed by President and CEO Todd Spencer. "They are overly complex and provide virtually no flexibility for drivers. They effectively force drivers to be on the road when they are tired; during busy travel times, during hazardous weather and road conditions or when they simply are not feeling well."

Spencer also noted that the unyielding 14-hour clock also pressures truckers to drive faster when they're running short on available time. "Additionally, drivers are frequently at the mercy of shippers and receivers in regard to loading and unloading their truck, which consumes between 11 and 20 hours, in average, each week. Consequently, today's hours-of-service requirements have not resulted in statistical improvements to highway safety. In fact, we would argue they jeopardize highway safety."

The final hours-of-service rule will provide drivers more opportunities to rest when they are tired, to stay off the road during adverse driving conditions and to maintain greater control over their own schedules added OOIDA. "As the rulemaking repeatedly makes clear, these hours-of-service reforms will not increase available driving time. The changes will help reverse the rising crash rates highway users have experienced since the inception of existing hours-of-service standards."

All petitions requesting a stay of implementation of the HOS final rule were denied by the FMCSA as of Aug. 27, and unless something changes, the new and final revisions to the contentious HOS rule will become law on Sept. 29.

Here is a link to the final HOS regulation: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/…

Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn

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