DOT leader promises flexibility in hours-of-service rule

Chao tells MATS attendees that rulemaking was sent to White House for review.

May 2019

Greg Grisolano

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said owner-operators and small-business truckers hoping for flexibility in hours of service should get some good news soon.

In late March, Chao made an appearance at the Mid-America Trucking Show in her hometown to announce that a notice of proposed rulemaking has been sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. The proposal was sent to OMB on March 28.

No timetable was provided on the review process, and Chao declined to give specific details about the nature of the proposed changes, citing the regulatory review process.

“You wanted flexibility. We listened. We asked for your participation, and you participated,” Chao said.

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.

More than 5,200 comments were received on the advance notice of proposed rulemaking for hours of service reform. OOIDA was one of two groups of truckers Chao credited by name when referring to those who had spearheaded the campaign for reform.

“It’s encouraging that the DOT has stayed true to their word and are moving quickly on hours of service reform,” said Lewie Pugh, OOIDA executive vice president. “Of course, we would like to have heard Secretary Chao say exactly what the hours of service is going to be, but that would have also been uncommon in this stage of the process.”

In addition to Chao’s comments at MATS, she also addressed hours of service at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on March 27. In response to a question from Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., about the Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act, which would provide regulatory relief from the electronic logging mandate for the transportation of agricultural products, Chao expressed skepticism towards a “one-size-fits-all approach.”

“We’re very much aware of the hardship that these inflexible rules have placed on rural and agricultural interests,” she said at the hearing.

While potential hours of service reform was the biggest news at MATS, Chao also announced that the Transportation Department has identified funding for additional truck parking spaces. This announcement also drew rounds of applause from the attendees.

“When the DOT talks about funding being dedicated to parking, we hope it’s used to pour pavement and not just to do more studies of a problem that we all know has existed for way too long,” Pugh said. LL

Greg Grisolano

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.