DOT Modernizes Hours

As of May 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, known as FMCSA, of the United States Department of Transportation published its finalized update to the hours of service rules. This regulations update was completed with the goal of improving safety on the roadways and applies to commercial vehicle drivers.

In a statement, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao praised truckers in America for their actions to maintain the supply chains and allow them to remain open and functional during this unusual time. She explained that the updated rules are designed to provide truckers with improved flexibility, so they can continue to help keep the country running.

In recent months, the FMCSA has also given commercial drivers regulatory relief to ensure that Americans receive essential household goods, food, and medical supplies. This change has made it undeniable that truckers are essential to the American supply chain.

According to Chao, the updated hours of service rules are the result of concerns that truckers brought to the attention of the Trump administration and the Department of Transportation. These truckers expressed interest in rules that were more flexible as well as safer.

According to FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen, to create the updated rules regarding hours of service, the FMCSA and Department of Transportation carefully reviewed comments numbering in the thousands from Americans. Mullen reiterated Chao’s statement that the updates will work toward the goal of improving safety on the roadways. He added that they should strengthen the commercial trucking industry.

Brief History of Hours of Service Rules

The FMCSA first adopted HOS rules in 1937. This was the first step to specifying the allowed operating hours for drivers of commercial vehicles. In 2018, the department supplemented it with the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM). This notice was designed to encourage public comments on elements of the hours of service rules. The end goal was to determine changes that would reduce the burdens faced by commercial drivers while also maximizing safety on the roads and highways in the country.

To follow this, in summer 2019, a proposed role was published by the agency, which also encouraged the public to provide comments. The new hours of service rules are the result of agency decisions and influence from those 2,800 comments.

The Revisions

Following the commentary from the public, the FMCSA determined four “final rule” revisions on the HOS compared to the previously existing rules.

  • 30-minute break rule flexibility and safety: The agency aims to improve the flexibility and safety associated with this rule by adjusting the requirement of a break following eight hours of driving consecutively. Changes now allow this break to include a not driving status for a driver that is on-duty, instead of requiring a status of off-duty.
  • Sleeper-berth exception: The exception regarding sleeper berths will be modified, so drivers can divide the 10 hours of required off-duty time into two separate periods. This can be a split of 7/3 or 8/2. In either case, these two off-duty periods totaling 10 hours do not count against the 14-hour window of driving for the operator.
  • Adverse driving conditions exception: The modifications to the exception for inclement driving conditions includes extending the maximum of the window for allowed driving by two hours.
  • Short-haul exception: This exception applies to commercial drivers who make short hauls. Its modifications involve increasing the maximum period of on-duty status to as many as 14 hours from the previous 12 hours. It also extends the limit for distance to 150 air miles (compared to 100 air miles) in which the driver can operate.

Expected Impacts of the Rule Changes

The FMSCA carefully crafted the final hours of service rule with the goal of boosting safety across roadways. It is very important to note that these changes will not increase the driving time. Additionally, the rules continue the prevention of commercial motor vehicle operators overworking themselves by driving without a half-hour break, at minimum, within eight hours of consecutive driving.

The rule change is also expected to have a positive financial impact. Experts predict that these modernized HOS regulations will save $274 million annually for American consumers and the United States economy.

The potential impact of the updated rules is strong, given that the industry has an employee count of more than 7 million. It is also responsible for transporting the majority of domestic freight in the country, at 70 percent.

The new rules were published as part of the Federal Register on May 14, and they will go into effect 120 days following this publication.

Source Citation: FMCSA Newsroom

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