FMCSA Planning Pilot Program for Hours of Service ‘Pause’

On September 3, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it is seeking comment on a proposed pilot program for hours of service regulatory relief by allowing participating drivers to pause their on-duty driving period with one off-duty period of up to 3 hours (85 FR 55061).

Truck driving

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In its August 22, 2019, hours of service proposed rulemaking, the FMCSA planned a provision for a single off-duty break of between 30 minutes and 3 consecutive hours that would be excluded from the 14-hour driving window, but the agency decided against establishing the pause provision in its June 1, 2020, final rule.

During the planned Split Duty Period Pilot Program, participating commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers would have the option to pause their 14-hour on-duty period (the “driving window”) with 1 off-duty period of no less than 30 minutes and no more than 3 hours. Participation would be limited to a certain number of commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders who meet certain criteria for participation.

This pilot program seeks to understand whether decisions about the timing on an on-duty pause can be aligned with employers’, shippers’, and receivers’ scheduling preferences to optimize productivity and maintain the same level of safety performance.

Many commenters responding to the hours of service proposal believed that drivers would be pressured by carriers, shippers, or receivers to use the break to cover detention time, failing to provide the drivers with appropriate rest.

The FMCSA believes that allowing an off-duty break of up to 3 consecutive hours during a work shift could enable drivers to avoid driving during periods of traffic congestion, making subsequent driving time more productive. The agency also believes the pause option during the work shift would increase drivers’ off-duty time during the workweek.

The pilot program would include the following six elements:

  • A scheduled duration of 3 years or less;
  • A data collection and safety analysis plan that identifies a method of comparing the safety performance of motor carriers, CMVs, and drivers operating under the terms and conditions of the pilot program, with the safety performance of motor carriers, CMVs, and drivers who comply with the established hours of service regulation;
  • A reasonable number of participants necessary to yield statistically valid findings;
  • A monitoring plan to ensure participants comply with the terms and conditions of the pilot program;
  • Adequate safeguards to protect the health and safety of study participants and the general public; and
  • A plan to inform the states and the public about the pilot program and identify approved participants to enforcement personnel and the general public.

The eligibility criteria for motor carriers would exclude those that are high- or moderate-risk motor carriers; have conditional or unsatisfactory safety ratings; have any enforcement actions within the past 3 years; or have cash, driver out-of-service, or vehicle out-of-service rates above the national average. Participating motor carriers also must have proper operating authority and registration and the minimum levels of financial responsibility. Unpaid civil penalties may be grounds for disapproval from participating in the pilot program. Participating drivers would have to have clean driving records free of cancelations, convictions, suspensions, restrictions, and revocations.

Participating motor carriers would be required to grant permission for researchers to install a video-based onboard monitoring system (OBMS) and gather records of duty status (RODS) information for each participating driver during the study period.

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