Regulatory Developments, Transportation

Hours of Service for Drivers: FMCSA Proposes Changes

The Transportation Department’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) unveiled proposed changes to its rules covering drivers’ hours of service. The changes would provide greater flexibility for both long- and short-haul drivers.

Semi truck, truck driving, drivers

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Proposed changes would give commercial motor vehicle drivers greater flexibility in five areas to shift their work and drive time to accommodate traffic and weather conditions, as well as down time while trucks are being loaded or unloaded, the agency said.

“This proposed rule seeks to enhance safety by giving America’s commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time,” Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a statement.

FMCSA published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last year, seeking public comment on possible changes to the hours of service rules. The agency said the proposed changes would alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers.

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

The proposal is open for comment for 45 days.

Proposed Changes

The agency is proposing changes to hours of service regulations that would include:

  • Lengthening the maximum on-duty period for short-haul drivers from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit for short-haul drivers from 100 miles to 150 miles;
  • Extending the on-duty period by up to 2 hours for long-haul drivers who spend part of their driving time in adverse weather conditions such as fog, sleet, or snow;
  • Requiring a 30-minute break for long-haul drivers only if the driver has driven for 8 hours without at least a 30-minute non-driving interruption;
  • Allowing the 30-minute break requirement to be satisfied with either 30 minutes off-duty in a sleeper berth or on-duty but not driving;
  • Allowing long-haul drivers to take their 10-hour off-duty sleeper berth requirement in two periods—one 0ff-duty period of at least 2 hours in or out of the sleeper berth and one period of at least 7 hours spent in the sleeper berth—and neither period would count against the maximum 14-hour driving window; and
  • Allowing long-haul drivers to take an off-duty break of at least 30 minutes but no longer than 3 hours and then extend their 14-hour driving window by the length of that break, provided drivers take at least 10 hours off duty at the end of the shift.

Short-haul drivers are exempt from the 30-minute break and 10-hour off-duty requirements.

Adverse weather conditions include icy roads, fog, sleet, and snow. The two-hour extension of the on-duty window means a truck driver would have up to 16 hours to complete 13 hours of driving and a passenger bus driver would have up to 17 hours to complete 12 hours of driving.

The agency’s rationale for the change is that current requirements penalize drivers who drive cautiously in difficult conditions by shortening their workday.

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