On the eve of the day Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez are expected to deliver speeches about possible hours-of-service reform, the FMCSA announced it has received a pair of HOS exemption requests.
The National Waste & Recycling Association and PJ Helicopters are both asking the agency for exemptions from the hours-of-service rules. FMCSA announced the requests on Thursday, March 28, and they are scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on March 29.
The NWRA asks that all short-haul commercial motor vehicle drivers in the waste and recycling industry be allowed up to 14 hours – instead of the current 12 hours – to return to the original work reporting location without losing their short-haul status.
PJ Helicopters’ exemption request would allow its ground support equipment operators a 16-hour window within which to complete all driving and enable these operators to alter the break from 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time to eight consecutive hours combined with at least two other off-duty hours.
FMCSA will be accepting comments on both HOS exemption requests for 30 days. Comments can be made here by typing in FMCSA-2019-0085 for the NWRA request and FMCSA-2019-0079 for the PJ Helicopters request.
The agency has received an abundance of HOS exemption requests since the electronic logging device mandate went into effect in December 2017. The mandate led to an increase in truck drivers being vocal about a need to increase flexibility within the hours of service.
In August, FMCSA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking regarding possible changes to the hours of service. The agency hosted five public listening sessions, and a common response from OOIDA and truck drivers was that there needed to be more flexibility within the rules.
The FMCSA received about 5,200 comments on the possible rulemaking, and the agency is expected to announce its proposed changes to the hours of service soon.
The testimony came only days before Chao is scheduled to provide a regulatory update at 1 p.m. EDT on Friday, March 29 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. According to a news release, Chao “will be providing an update on the Department of Transportation’s efforts on safety, infrastructure, truck parking, and reducing burdensome regulations on truck drivers.” Martinez is scheduled to follow Chao.
Many truck drivers hope the speeches will provide some details regarding hours-of-service reform.
Potentially tipping her hand regarding the upcoming proposal, Chao referred to the current hours-of-service rules as “inflexible” during a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on Wednesday.
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