In effect

Truckers begin utilizing hours-of-service changes.

December 2020/January 2021

Mark Schremmer

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After more than two years of discussion, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new hours-of-service rules are in effect.

Beginning Sept. 29, the new hours-of-service rules expanded short-haul limits, updated the adverse driving condition provision, added a split-sleeper option, and modified the 30-minute break requirement.

Early reports from drivers have ranged from appreciation for the added flexibility to confusion over the split-sleeper rule and frustration over their electronic logging device not reflecting the changes to the regulations.

“The biggest thing I’m hearing from drivers are questions about the split-sleeper and about their ELDs not being updated and showing them being in violation when they are following the new rules,” said Jim Jefferson, of OOIDA’s Business Services Department.

Soon after the rule changes went into effect on Sept. 29, OOIDA received reports from drivers that some ELD providers had not updated their devices to reflect the rule changes.

According to FMCSA, ELDs are not required to show violations. The devices are required only to record the actual time and events.

FMCSA’s Larry Minor discussed this issue at an August 2019 listening session in Dallas.

“That’s one of the things that we’re continuing to work with the ELD vendors on,” Minor said. “That is that we don’t require the ELDs to designate whether something is or is not a violation rather than just capturing what actually happened.”

For truckers with ELDs that designated violations before the hours-of-service rule changes, it is important to note that may no longer be the case.

“The minimum requirements in the electronic logging device final rule do not require ELDs to identify hours-of-service violations,” the FMCSA website stated. “However, some ELD providers have elected to offer this as an add-on feature. If an ELD provider offers this add-on feature but does not update their device to reflect the new hours-of-service rules, the ELD may inaccurately identify hours-of-service violations. Motor carriers should contact their ELD provider with specific questions about what information their ELD displays.”

Since the ELD mandate went into effect, many truckers have been able to rely on their ELD to tell them whether or not they are in compliance with the hours of service. Devices that have not been updated to reflect the changes are forcing drivers to revert to the days of when they had to do the math themselves.

“We’ve been getting a lot of calls about why their ELD isn’t functioning,” Jefferson said. “All I can do is refer them to their ELD provider.”

FMCSA has created a fact sheet to help commercial motor vehicle drivers navigate through the rule changes.

Short-haul exemption

The short-haul maximum allowable workday changed from 12 to 14 hours, and the distance the driver may operate is extending from a 100 air-mile radius to a 150 air-mile radius.

Correct use of the provision: A property-carrying driver has taken 10 consecutive hours off duty before coming on duty at midnight and being released from duty at 2 p.m. During that time, the trucker drove for nine hours and spent the remaining time on breaks or on duty, not driving. The driver returned to the normal work reporting location at 2 p.m., was released within 14 consecutive hours and stayed within a 150 air-mile radius.

Adverse driving conditions

The adverse driving conditions exception extends the duty day by up to two hours when adverse driving conditions are encountered. This is in addition to the extra two hours of driving time already allowed.

The key to the provision is “unforeseen,” the OOIDA Foundation said. Rush-hour traffic in Atlanta or a snow storm that had been forecast for two days probably wouldn’t qualify. However, the provision could be used in an unexpected crash that stops traffic or for an unexpected fire or hailstorm.

Correct use of the provision: Calculation of the 11- and 14-hour limits for this property carrier begin at midnight after the driver has taken 10 consecutive hours off duty on the previous day. The trucker drives for three hours, is off duty for one hour, drives for four hours, and is on duty for one hour. The driver then hears that a bridge on the route ahead is closed because of a gravel spill, and the bridge is the only way to get to the destination. The trucker takes one hour off duty from 9 to 10 a.m. to wait at a rest area while the bridge is cleared and then drives for five more hours to the destination. This results in the trucker driving for 12 hours and also operating beyond the 14-hour driving window by one hour, between 2 and 3 p.m.

There is no violation of either the 11- or 14-hour limits under the new rules.

The agency advises drivers to make an annotation in their electronic logging device when using the provision and to include details about the adverse driving condition.

The OOIDA Foundation said it is critical to remember that the 60 hours in seven days and the 70 hours in eight days rules still apply.

30-minute break

The 30-minute break requirement can now be satisfied by an on-duty, not driving break (in addition to an off-duty break). The requirement for property-carrying drivers is applicable in situations where a trucker has driven for a period of eight hours without at least a 30-minute interruption.

The change means that instead of taking the break off duty, the trucker can now take the break while completing such tasks as getting fuel or checking to make sure the load is secure.

Correct use of the provision: After 10 hours off duty, the driver comes on duty at midnight and drives five hours, goes on duty (not driving) for 30 minutes, drives for five more hours, goes on duty (not driving) for one hour, drives for one hour, goes on duty (not driving) for 1.5 hours and then takes 10 consecutive hours off duty. Under the new rules, the 30-minute on-duty break taken between 5 and 5:30 a.m., will suffice for the mandatory 30-minute break, and the property-carrying driver is allowed to drive up to the maximum of 11 hours before needing 10 consecutive hours off duty.

Sleeper berth provision

The sleeper berth provision allows drivers to split their 10-hour off-duty period in different ways (7/3, 8/2, 7.5/2.5), provided one off-duty period (whether in or out of the sleeper berth) is at least two hours long, and the other involves at least seven consecutive hours spent in the sleeper. The periods must add up to 10 hours, and when used together neither time period counts against the maximum 14-hour driving window.

Correct use of the provision: The driver comes on duty at midnight after having 10 consecutive hours off duty, which means he or she can drive for up to 11 hours within a 14-hour window. The driver used those 11 hours by 5 p.m. and then entered the sleeper berth for seven consecutive hours. Because the driver accumulated at least 10 hours of rest using a combination of three consecutive hours off duty (7-10 a.m.) and seven consecutive hours in the sleeper (5 p.m.-midnight), the driver has not violated the 11-hour driving limit. Because both periods are qualifying rest breaks, when used together, they can both be excluded from the 14-hour driving window, so there is no 14-hour violation.

When using the sleeper berth provision, the order of the qualifying breaks does not matter.

FMCSA is expected to soon release a frequently asked question section regarding the sleeper provision. LL

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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.