FMCSA denies trucker’s hours-of-service exemption

November 8, 2022

Land Line Staff


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has denied an individual truck driver’s request to be exempted from the hours-of-service regulations.

In a notice published in the Federal Register in June, Leland Schmitt Jr. asked the agency for a five-year exemption from five of the provisions in the hours-of-service rules.

Schmitt pointed to his safe driving record and 30 years of experience as reasons for the exemption. He noted that he has not been involved in any crashes and that he has accumulated more than 3 million safe driving miles during his career as a trucker.

FMCSA plans to publish a notice on Nov. 9 that denies Schmitt’s request.

“FMCSA analyzed the application and public comments and determined that the exemption would not achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent such exemption,” the agency wrote in the notice.

Schmitt requested relief from the provisions involving 10 consecutive hours off duty, the 14-hour driving window, the 30-minute break requirement, and the limits for 60 hours in seven days and 70 hours in eight days.

FMCSA received 651 comments on Schmitt’s request, including 350 in support. Many of those in support told the agency that safe drivers are leaving trucking because they are “over-regulated.”

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety opposed

“Exempting the petitioner from these hours-of-service provisions and allowing him to drive as long, frequently and as much as he desires would be utterly reckless and presents a needless threat to public safety regardless of his past driving record,” the safety group wrote. “Granting the application would also disregard well-established science on driver fatigue.”

FMCSA said that Schmitt failed to establish that he would maintain an equivalent level of safety with the exemption.

“The agency established and enforces the hours-of-service regulations to keep fatigued drivers off the public roadways,” the agency wrote. “Research studies demonstrate that long work hours reduce sleep and harm driver health and that crash risk increases with work hours.”

Another hours of service exemption request

In August, another truck driver asked for an exemption, citing his experience.

Ronnie Brown III, who works for Gray Transportation out of Waterloo, Iowa, argues that FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulation is a one-size-fits-all rule that doesn’t mesh well with his natural sleep patterns.

He said that a regulation telling truck drivers when they can’t drive is simultaneously forcing truckers to work during the allowed window, regardless of fatigue.

Brown requested a five-year individual exemption from the hours of service and the electronic logging device mandate.

As of Nov. 8, FMCSA had not announced a decision on Brown’s exemption request. LL