SPECIAL REPORT: FMCSA unveils proposed HOS regs

By Jami Jones, senior editor | 12/23/2010

Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010 – After months of speculation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has finally unveiled the hours-of-service regulations, proposing little change to the existing regs.

All-in-all, the notice of proposed rulemaking includes only one fundamental change from the existing regulation. The proposal reduces the on-duty time to 13 hours. However, the proposal allows for the 13-hour workday to be extended to 14 hours with a one-hour off-duty break during the day.

The proposal retains the 34-hour restart – with two restrictions. 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.

The agency will be soliciting comments on the 11-hour driving limit. In a press release from the agency, it is noted that the agency “currently favors” a 10-hour limit.

The proposed regulation was released by the agency on Thursday, Dec. 23, anticipating it will publish in the Federal Register on Dec. 29. The agency will allow for a 60-day comment period.

The 109-page proposal is currently being analyzed by OOIDA leadership in preparation for submitting comments ensuring that drivers’ interest and needs are well represented during the process in developing a final rule.

The proposed changes to hours of service stem from a lawsuit filed by Public Citizen and a handful of other groups challenging the current regulations.

FMCSA and the groups reached a settlement agreement the court signed off on in March.

The agreement, in short, was that FMCSA agreed to review the regulations and submit a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to the Office of Management and Budget by June of this year. The agency promptly moved into an information-gathering mode and began holding public listening sessions to solicit input on the regulations.

In return Public Citizen and the other plaintiffs agreed to an “abeyance” – which is essentially a suspension of the lawsuit – pending FMCSA’s publication of the Notice of the Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register.

Within 30 days of the proposed reg being published – which is expected to be Dec. 29 – the groups will file a joint motion with the court that will “govern future proceedings.”

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