With the focus firmly placed on hours of service following the implementation of mandatory electronic logging devices and a grassroots effort for reform led by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is poised to roll up its sleeves and go back to work on the HOS regs.
The agency announced an upcoming advance notice of proposed rulemaking that will consider changes to four areas of the current hours of service regulations:
- 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 eight hours of continuous driving; 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.
“OOIDA got this ball rolling with our petition, constant grassroots outreach from our members, and the relentless efforts of Congressman Brian Babin,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said. “The agency is finally listening and now the door is open for truckers to make their voices heard and to spur real, common-sense changes to the hours-of-service regulations.
“This rulemaking needs robust participation from real truckers so that the next incarnation of the hours-of-service regulations is not written by corporate trucking executives and anti-trucking groups that have no understanding of the realities of over-the-road trucking.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association led the way on calling for changes to the hours-of-service regulations when it filed a petition on Feb. 13 requesting the agency initiate a rulemaking. The petition pushed for changes to both the rigid 14-hour duty clock and elimination of the 30-minute rest break.
Truckers have long contended with the disastrous effects of the rigid 14-hour ticking time bomb of on-duty time. Forced to continue working and maybe even driving when weather, traffic or their own personal physical conditions would dictate otherwise, drivers have long called for flexibility in the 14-hour clock.
To tackle this, OOIDA asks the agency to consider a revision to the inability of drivers to stop the 14-hour clock.
The petition suggests the regulations be modified to allow drivers to take a rest break once per 14-hour duty period for up to three consecutive hours as long as the driver is off-duty.
“This rest break would effectively stop the 14-hour clock. However, drivers would still need to log 10 consecutive hours off duty before the start of their next work shift,” the petition states.
OOIDA leadership points out that drivers could use the ability to stop the clock to avoid periods of high traffic congestion or bad weather. That time would be off-duty, allowing the driver to take an extended rest break during the day without pushing through fatigue because of the unrelenting 14-hour on-duty clock.
The 30-minute rest break also is addressed in OOIDA’s petition. The Association asks the agency to consider simply eliminating the 30-minute mandatory rest break requirement.
“There are many operational situations where the 30-minute rest break requires drivers to stop when they simply do not need to. In addition, if drivers are allowed to stop the 14-hour clock for up to three consecutive hours, the 30-minute rest break is redundant and unnecessary,” the petition states.
In addition to the four changes being considered by the agency, comments also will be accepted on OOIDA’s petition.
A second petition is also being considered. According to the ANPRM, a group is asking to eliminate the prohibition of driving after the 14th hour of on-duty time and allow drivers to break up the 10-hour rest break into multiple breaks up to three hours long in duration. Comments will be accepted on that petition as well.
When the advance notice of proposed rulemaking publishes, the agency will accept comments for 30 days.
In addition to accepting comments on the petition, the agency will hold a series of listening sessions. The first will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, Aug. 24, at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center, where the Great American Trucking Show will be ongoing. Additional sites and times will be announced.
In addition to the regulatory approach to revising the hours of service, OOIDA has been working actively with Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas to provide legislative relief to the regulations as well.
The Texas Republican introduced a bill modifying the hours of service in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, March 29. HR5417, the Responsible and Effective Standards for Truckers Act or the REST Act, if passed, would add flexibility to the HOS regulations, allowing truckers more time to rest throughout the day.
HR5417 aims to change the hours-of-service regulations to allow drivers to pause the 14-hour on-duty clock for up to three hours once per duty period. It also eliminates the mandatory 30-minute rest break. The bill does not seek to increase the number of hours drivers can be behind the wheel. The bill has 21 co-sponsors so far.
FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez will be on Land Line Now Tuesday at 7 p.m. Eastern. He will be joined by FMCSA’s Director of Enforcement and Compliance, Joe DeLorenzo. They will be talking about the advance notice of proposed rulemaking and the changes the agency is considering to hours of service. The show airs on SiriusXM Channel 146.
The show will be available via podcast starting Wednesday, Aug. 22, at 6 a.m. Eastern, through podcast services or online at LandLineNow.com.
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