The threat of severe weather associated with Hurricane Florence has prompted the postponement of a public listening session to discuss possible changes to hours-of-service regulations for interstate truck drivers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced on Thursday it was postponing the listening session that had been scheduled for 1-3 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 14 at the U.S. Department of Transportation office in Washington, D.C. A rescheduled date and time had not been determined.
According to the National Weather Service, a coastal flood warning is in effect for the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as the tidal Potomac River and adjacent counties in northern Virginia and the District of Columbia beginning at Thursday night. The flood watch will remain in effect for the area through Saturday. Tides are expected to be anywhere from 1.5 to 4 feet above normal during the watch.
FMCSA has been collecting information on proposed changes to the hours-of-service regulations. In addition to soliciting public comments on an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that proposes changes to the HOS regulations, the agency has been hosting listening sessions to gather additional public input. The first listening session was held in late August at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.
The advance notice of proposed rulemaking was launched, in part, because of a petition submitted by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. OOIDA petitioned FMCSA on Feb. 13 to amend the HOS rules to allow drivers to take a rest break once per 14-hour duty period for up to three consecutive hours if the driver is off-duty.
OOIDA explained that the rest break would effectively stop the 14-hour clock. It also would extend to the 17th hour after coming on duty (instead of the current 14th hour) the latest time a driver could drive after coming on duty. However, drivers would still be limited to 11 hours of driving time and required to have at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before the start of the next work shift.
OOIDA’s petition also included a request that the agency eliminate the 30-minute rest break requirement. The organization explained that there are many operational situations where the 30-minute rest break requires drivers to stop when they do not feel tired.
A second petition requesting changes to the rule was submitted on May 10 by Trucker Nation.
The group asked the agency to revise the prohibition against driving after the 14th hour after the beginning of the work shift. As an alternative, the group requested that the agency prohibit driving after the driver has accumulated 14-hours of on-duty time.
In addition, the group requested that FMCSA allow drivers to use multiple off-duty periods of three hours or longer in lieu of having 10 consecutive hours off-duty and eliminate the 30-minute rest break requirement.
In addition to those two petitions, the agency also presented possible changes to the short-haul operation, adverse driving conditions and the split sleeper berth regulations. Those proposed changes:
- 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; and
- 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 a move not at all uncommon in the advance notice of proposed rulemaking phase, agency officials are asking for specific input and not anecdotal comments and scenarios.
Agency officials seek answers on the following issues and questions.
1. Short-haul operations.
- Do you have any data to show that extending the 12-hour period for the short-haul exception to the records of duty status/ELD requirements to 14 hours would change the safety performance of carriers using the short-haul provision?
- How specifically would a 14-hour period change your driver or carrier operations as compared to 12 hours?
- What would the incremental change be for your operations/business if the exemption was changed to 14 hours? For example, would your operations expand or would your drivers/carriers move from non-exempt status to exempt status. What would be the economic impacts of that incremental change?
2. Adverse driving conditions.
- Is there adequate flexibility in the existing adverse driving conditions exception?
- How often do you currently utilize the adverse driving conditions exception?
- What are the economic impacts of the current exception on your driver or carrier operation?
- Should the definition of adverse driving conditions be changed?
- Should the adverse driving exception apply to the 14-hour workday window, not just the 11-hour driving limit?
- How would the above changes affect the economic costs and benefits, and the impacts on safety and fatigue of the adverse driving conditions exception?
3. The 30-minute break.
- If the 30-minute rest break rule did not exist, would drivers obtain adequate rest breaks throughout a daily driving period to relieve fatigue?
- Are there alternatives to the 30-minute rest break that would provide additional flexibility to drivers while achieving the safety benefit goal of the current 30-minute break?
- If a rest break is retained, should it be taken off-duty or on-duty while the driver is not driving?
- How does the 30-minute rest break affect the efficiency of operations from a driver’s or a carrier’s perspective?
- How would your suggestions affect the costs and benefits of the 30-minute break?
4. Split-sleeper berth.
- FMCSA has announced a proposed flexible sleeper berth pilot program. Beyond the information that will be collected in the pilot program, do you have any information that would support changing the current requirements?
- Are there alternatives that would make the sleeper berth options more effective or less costly?
- How often do you use the sleeper berth option currently; how would this change with your suggested regulatory alternatives?
- What cost impacts and safety benefits would result from different split-sleeper berth options?
5. OOIDA petition.
- What specifically would change about your driver/carrier operations by extending the 14-hour driving window?
- Is there a likely increase in safety risk from extending the 14-hour driving window? For example, would altering the current rule allowing 14 hours on duty and 10 hours off duty interfere with drivers’ circadian rhythm? Could driver health be affected?
- Would a potential increase in safety risk be lessened by the requirement that all the additional time beyond 14 hours must be off-duty time?
- Would allowing OOIDA’s request for an extended break during the work day improve safety by allowing drivers to increase the total amount of off-duty time during and immediately following the work from 10 hours and 30 minutes to 13 hours, without reducing the maximum driving time available within 14-hour window?
- Are there other flexibilities or other nonsafety benefits that could be realized if the 14-hour window is extended?
6. Trucker Nation petition.
- Is there a likely increase in safety risk from eliminating the consecutive 14-hour driving window? For example, would the absence of a limit on the length of the work shift – the time between the driver coming on duty after accumulating the minimum of 10 hours off-duty and the driver being prohibited from driving – combined with splitting the required 10 consecutive hours off-duty into a number of segments, interfere with drivers’ circadian rhythm? Could driver health be affected? Please provide data on the costs and benefits of this approach.
- Are there other flexibilities or other nonsafety benefits that could be realized if the 14-hour window is eliminated?
Comments are due Sept. 24. Click here to file comments electronically. For those unfamiliar with filing comments electronically, OOIDA produced a how-to video that walks viewers through the steps.
Managing Editor Jami Jones contributed to this report.
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