The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) asked for public comment on their Aug. 23, 2018, Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), to determine if Hours of Service (HOS) revisions may alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers while maintaining safety on our nation's highways and roads. The original comment period was supposed to end on Sept. 24, but a number of organizations requested extensions.
The current HOS rules are posted here:
Some of these organizations included American Trucking Associations, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, National Pork Producers Council and the National Tank Truck Carriers, among others. Certain regulations included in the HOS rule are having a significant impact on agriculture and other sectors of trucking. In order to provide all interested parties with additional time to submit comments, the FMCSA extended the deadline to Oct. 10, 2018.
The FMCSA noted on their website that the four specific areas under consideration for revision are:
*Expanding the current 100 air-mile "short-haul" exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers.
*Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions.
*Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after 8 hours of continuous driving.
*Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment.
In addition, the ANPRM sought public comment and relevant data on two recently submitted petitions requesting regulatory relief from HOS rules (1) pertaining to the 14-hour on-duty limitation, filed by the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and (2) pertaining to the 10-hour off-duty requirement, filed by TruckerNation.org.
The OOIDA has asked for the elimination of the arbitrary 30-minute rest break and allowing drivers to take rest breaks once per 14-hour duty period for up to three consecutive hours as long as the driver is off-duty. In addition, OOIDA recommended expanding split-sleeper berth flexibility and updating the definition of the "Adverse Conditions" exception and applying it to the 14-hour clock among other HOS changes that would benefit highway safety.
OOIDA noted in their comments submitted to FMCSA that it based its comments on feedback from its members, who are predominantly small-business truckers. "Most of the trucking industry is made up of small businesses," said OOIDA President Todd Spencer. "Small-business truckers are the safest and most diverse operators on the road. Yet for far too long, the federal government has failed to grasp the importance of this diversity and continues to burden the trucking industry with a "one-size-fits-all approach that punishes small businesses, stifles competition, and overregulates an industry deregulated by design."
FARM BUREAUS AND LIVESTOCK GROUPS WEIGH IN
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Livestock Marketing Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Beekeeping Federation, American Honey Producers Association, and National Aquaculture Association on behalf of the specialized subset of experienced drivers, submitted a petition to FMCSA. These groups pointed out the needed flexibility from certain provisions of the FMCSA HOS rules to accommodate the unique interstate transportation challenges of the U.S. livestock industry.
Read more about it here:
The groups asked for a five-year exemption from certain HOS requirements for livestock haulers and encouraged the Department of Transportation to work with the livestock industry to implement additional fatigue-management practices.
Current HOS rules limit drive time to 11 hours and limit "on-duty hours" to 14 hours. Instead, the groups asked that livestock haulers be granted approval to drive up to 15 hours with a 16-hour on-duty period, following a 10-hour consecutive rest period. "Any livestock hauler wishing to operate under the extended drive time would be required to complete pre-trip planning and increased fatigue-management training," noted the petition.
"Livestock haulers are highly-trained professionals who take careful steps to ensure the safety of everyone on the road. Through this petition, we hope to work with DOT to build on our industry's strong safety record and provide haulers with some additional relief from overly restrictive HOS requirements," said Kevin Kester, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
"When livestock and other live animals are transported, it's important to get them to their destination safely and without delay or disruption. Safety for the driver and others on the road is a priority. That is why we are petitioning DOT to adopt modern fatigue-management practices that provide the same or greater level of safety while avoiding unintended and unnecessary stress on the animals entrusted to our care," said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation President.
Not all participants supported increased flexibility to the HOS rule. In an Oct. 11, 2018, article, Transport Topics reported that at a public listening session, Harry Adler, public affairs manager at the Truck Safety Coalition, urged FMCSA to "strongly consider" safety implications before making changes to HOS rules. At that listening session, Franklin Wood, a father whose daughter died in 1992 on the road to college when a truck hit her disabled vehicle, said flexible rules allow "bad actors more leeway to be reckless," noted the article.
"I think even eight hours on the road is a hardship. Backing off of regulations only makes it easier for the ones that will exploit these rules to the detriment of the driving public," Wood said. "Safety was the formation for FMCSA. It's in the name. Making driving more efficient for the carriers is not your responsibility."
Now that the extended comment period has ended, it is up to FMCSA to decide what changes or possible exemptions may or may not be made in to law. Given the pros and cons presented by the some 5,021 online comments and others in various listening sessions, the decision will likely not be an easy one.
Mary Kennedy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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