FMCSA encourages feedback on hours-of-service plan

August 15, 2019

Mark Schremmer

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said it used the thousands of comments it received from truck drivers to shape a notice of proposed rulemaking on hours of service that promises to provide more flexibility.

Now, the agency wants feedback from truck drivers again in order to help push the proposal across the finish line. One day after announcing its plan for hours-of-service reform, FMCSA revealed that it will host two listening sessions on the proposal. The first will be Aug. 23 at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, and the second will be in Washington, D.C., sometime in September.

The notice of proposed rulemaking is expected to publish in the Federal Register early next week, and then there will be a 45-day public comment period. Once the notice publishes, comments may be submitted to the regulations.gov website by using docket number FMCSA-2018-0248.

“FMCSA wants drivers and commercial motor vehicle stakeholders to share their thoughts and opinions on the proposed changes to hours-of-service rules that we are putting forward,” FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said. “We listened directly to the concerns of drivers for rules that are safer and have more flexibility – and we have acted. We encourage everyone to review and comment on this proposal.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association also is encouraging its more than 160,000 members to submit comments and give feedback on the plan.

“We would like to thank everyone who has spent their time speaking up about the need for hours-of-service reforms,” OOIDA’s Call to Action stated. “Your relentless efforts have resulted in (this) proposal that will improve highway safety. When the docket is open, OOIDA encourages everyone to once again submit public comments to the notice of proposed rulemaking. Your feedback will help make these improvements permanent.”

On Wednesday, Aug. 14, FMCSA unveiled its proposal to give truckers more freedom to stop when they are tired and to avoid driving in such conditions as inclement weather and rush-hour traffic.

FMCSA proposed five changes to the current hours of service.

  • The limits for short-haul operations would increase from 12 to 14 hours and from 100 air miles to 150.
  • The adverse driving provision would allow a driver up to a 16-hour window (for property carriers) within which to complete up to 13 hours of driving, or a 17-hour duty period (for passenger carriers) within which to complete up to 12 hours of driving if the driver encounters adverse conditions.
  • The 30-minute break requirement would be modified, prohibiting driving for more than eight hours without at least one 30-minute change in duty status. This would allow 30 minutes of on-duty, not driving time, off-duty time, or sleeper berth time to qualify as a break.”
  • In addition to splits of 10/0 and 8/2, drivers would be allowed a split sleeper option of 7/3.
  • Drivers would have the option of stopping the clock a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 3 hours consecutively once per duty period.

“We hope that by providing this type of flexibility, it will put a little bit more power into the hands of the drivers to address the realities they are facing on the road,” Martinez said.

As soon as Martinez started in his role as FMCSA administrator in February 2018, he said he started hearing from truck drivers about how the rigid hours-of-service regulations coupled with the new electronic logging mandate was a detriment to highway safety. Many drivers told him that the rules were making them feel like they were in a race with the clock.

That same month, OOIDA submitted a petition about hours-of-service reform to the agency.

The petition asked for regulations to allow drivers to take a rest break once per 14-hour duty period for three consecutive hours if the driver is off-duty. OOIDA also asked the agency to eliminate the 30-minute rest break requirement.

Only a few months later, FMCSA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking about hours of service. The agency hosted five public listening sessions on the topic and received more than 5,200 comments. Truckers echoed OOIDA’s sentiment from the petition, saying the current regulations lack the flexibility drivers need to maintain safety.

“The proposed rule seeks to enhance safety by giving America’s commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a news release.

OOIDA leadership discussed the proposal during a Facebook Live video posted on Aug. 14.

“The agency needs to justify the changes that they make, and we are especially pleased that they are reaching out to the real experts – the people who face these situations every day,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer wrote. “Your feedback is instrumental … What would work best and why. You guys are the experts and show that you are in your comments to the agency.”

OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh said the truck drivers need to provide their feedback on the proposal, because opponents of reform will speak up.

“They need to hear from you,” Pugh said. “They’re going to hear from the people who are against you, so let’s hear from the people that this will help. Whether you like or dislike, write how it affects you and your business every day.”

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, staff writer, 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 nearly two decades of journalism experience to our staff.