Comment period opens on HOS proposal

| 12/29/2010

The clock is officially ticking on the 60-day comment period on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed hours of service.

The notice of proposed rulemaking was printed in the Federal Register on Wednesday, Dec. 29. Comments on the proposal are due by Feb. 28, 2011.

All in all, the agency left the majority of the current hours-of-service regulations alone in the proposal. However, the changes that were proposed could have significant impact on day-to-day operations of truckers.

Driving time
While the current proposal leaves the 11-hour driving limit in place, the agency is seeking input on the possibility of reducing driving time to 10 hours.

The agency even noted in the proposal that currently a 10-hour driving limit is preferred.

Driving windows
Under the proposed regulations, drivers would be required to complete their 11 hours of driving within a 14-hour “window.” That can be extended to a 16-hour “window” twice a week.

“Other key provisions include the option of extending a driver's daily shift to 16 hours twice a week to accommodate for issues such as loading and unloading at terminals or ports, and allowing drivers to count some time spent parked in their trucks toward off-duty hours,” the agency stated in the HOS press release.

The extension of the driving window would be available only to drivers who take a straight 10-hour off-duty break. It is not available to drivers who split their sleeper berth time.

The regulation states:

Exception – A driver may drive during a driving window of 16 consecutive hours after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty on no more than 2 days out of the previous 168 consecutive hours. The driver may not drive after the end of the driving window without first taking 10 consecutive hours off duty.

On-duty time
This proposed on-duty time could present one of the more significant changes teed up in the NPRM.

Currently, the industry is governed by a 14-hour on-duty period. The actual regulation does not restrict work to 14 hours; it limits a trucker’s ability to drive after the 14th hour of being on duty. On-duty time does count against the 60- and 70-hour weekly limits.

In the proposal, the agency is actually tinkering with the idea of limiting the actual workday to 13 hours. For example, that would mean that truckers who are half loaded – or unloaded – would essentially be forced to go completely off duty.

The proposed restriction reads:

(4) On-duty period. A driver may be on duty no more than 13 hours during the 14-hour or 16-hour driving window.

FMCSA was very clear about its intention to limit the actual number of hours worked in a day in a press release that accompanied the HOS proposal. The release stated that drivers must “complete all on-duty work-related activities within 13 hours.”

Rest breaks
The agency is proposing a 14-hour window that the 13-hour workday can be completed within – allowing for a one-hour rest break.

However, when factoring in driving time, the agency is also proposing that after seven hours has gone by since a driver’s last off-duty period, he or she would be required to take a 30-minute off-duty break.

The proposal states:

“driving is permitted only if seven hours or less have passed since the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes.”

34-hour restart
While the agency kept the 34-hour restart option in the proposed regs, there are some restrictions included.

The agency is proposing that the restart contain two overnight rest periods, from midnight to 6 a.m. on each rest period. The restart would be allowed only once during a seven-day period. Actually, the agency has proposed that the restart can only be used once every 168 hours – easily leaving room for some logbook form and manner violations.

Split sleeper berth
The agency is proposing one change to the split sleeper berth provision. Currently, both the eight- and two-hour rest periods must be taken in the sleeper berth.

The NPRM proposes to allow drivers to be in the jump seat during the two-hour portion of the split.

The agency will accept comments until Feb. 28. Comments can be faxed, mailed or submitted electronically. They are also accepted by hand-delivery, but truck parking is scarce in DC.

Mail comments to:
Docket Management Facility (M-30)
U.S. Department of Transportation
West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20590-0001

Fax: 202-493-2221

Online: Click here to be directed to the NPRM. Click the “submit a comment” button to fill out a form and submit your comments. You can submit comments anonymously.