FMCSA poised to put new HOS rules into effect

October 2020

Mark Schremmer

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Editor’s note: The new hours of service rules went into effect on Sept. 29. Check out the OOIDA Foundation’s video series explaining the changes.

As of press time in mid-September, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was moving full steam ahead toward enacting its new hours-of-service rules on Sept. 29.

In late August, the agency denied three separate petitions aiming to halt the new rules.

In June, the Teamsters joined the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers, and the Truck Safety Coalition to file a petition for reconsideration against the new rules aimed at providing more flexibility within the hours-of-service regulations.

“The weakening of the hours-of-service rules will undoubtedly endanger the lives of truck drivers and the citizens with whom they share the roads every day,” the organizations wrote. “Despite claims that these revisions will empower drivers to make independent choices to address fatigue more efficiently, the repeated mention of traffic, foul weather, and detention time belies this claim as the agency’s actual justification for this proposed change to the hours-of-service rules.”

FMCSA denied that petition on Aug. 25.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance also filed a petition for reconsideration against hours-of-service reform.

In its petition, CVSA requested that FMCSA reconsider language in the final rule related to adverse driving conditions, the use of personal conveyance and existing hours-of-service exemptions that CVSA says “will become redundant or inaccurate when the final rule goes into effect.”

CVSA is concerned that the adverse driving provision could be used in conjunction with the 150 air-mile radius exemption, that the rule didn’t alter the definition of personal conveyance, and that the new rules mean that some of FMCSA’s existing exemptions should be rescinded or revised.

FMCSA denied CVSA’s petition on Aug. 27.

An individual petition from Anna Torrens was also denied on Aug. 27.

New rules

The agency’s final rule includes four major changes.

  • The on-duty limits for short-haul operations will increase from 12 to 14 hours and from 100 air-miles to 150.
  • The adverse driving provision will extend the driving window two hours if the driver encounters adverse driving conditions. In the final rule, the definition of “adverse driving” was modified so that the exception may be applied based on the driver’s (and the dispatcher’s) knowledge of the conditions after being dispatched.
  • In addition to splits of 10/0 and 8/2, drivers will be allowed a split-sleeper option of 7/3. Also, the qualifying period doesn’t count against the 14-hour window.
  • The 30-minute break provision will be modified to require the break after eight hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time) and allows an on-duty/not driving period to qualify as the required break.

Despite opposition from the Teamsters, CVSA and some safety groups, FMCSA has remained focused on rolling out the new rules at the end of the month.

During the FMCSA’s 2020 Truck Safety Summit on Aug. 5, then acting Administrator Jim Mullen said the plans to put the reformed rules into effect at the end of September remained “on track.”

Mullen left the FMCSA at the end of August and was replaced as acting administrator by Wiley Deck, but there is no indication that the change in leadership changes the plan to add flexibility in the regulations.

In addition to the upcoming rule changes, FMCSA is looking at the creation of a pilot program to analyze the possibility of providing further flexibility and regulatory relief for drivers.

OOIDA has been supportive of the rule changes and filed official comments against the petitions for reconsideration.

“The final hours-of-service rule will provide drivers more opportunities to rest when they are tired, to stay off the road during adverse driving conditions, and to maintain greater control over their own schedules,” OOIDA wrote. “As the rulemaking repeatedly makes clear, these hours-of-service reforms will not increase available driving time. The changes will help reverse the rising crash rates highway users have experienced since the inception of existing hours-of-service standards.” LL

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.