FMCSA plans to roll out new HOS rules on Sept. 29

August 7, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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One of the key takeaways from FMCSA’s 2020 Trucking Safety Summit is that the agency plans to move forward with its Sept. 29 rollout of the new hours-of-service regulations.

FMCSA acting Administrator Jim Mullen said during the Aug. 5 online event that the plans to put the reformed rules into effect at the end of September remained “on track.”

Those rules, which the agency has said are intended to provide more flexibility to drivers, include:

  • 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 (in addition to 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.

OOIDA’s take

While stating that the rules still don’t go far enough, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been supportive of the final rule. Earlier this week, OOIDA filed formal comments in support of the changes, saying the new rules will accomplish FMCSA’s intended goal of providing drivers with more flexibility and control over their own schedules.

“For many years, OOIDA members have repeatedly told lawmakers and the FMCSA that the existing hours-of-service rules are not sensible for today’s trucking industry,” OOIDA wrote in formal comments signed by President and CEO Todd Spencer. “The current hours-of-service regulations that dictate a truck driver’s work schedule are overly complex and provide virtually no flexibility for drivers. They effectively force drivers to be on the road when they are tired, during busy travel times, during hazardous weather and road conditions, or when they simply are not feeling well.

“The unyielding 14-hour clock also pressures truckers to drive faster when they’re running short on available time. Additionally, drivers are frequently at the mercy of shippers and receivers in regards to loading and unloading their truck, which consumes between 11 and 20 hours in an average each week. Consequently, today’s hours-of-service requirements have not resulted in statistical improvements to highway safety.”

Petitions for reconsideration

However, there also has been opposition to hours-of-service reform.

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 on June 30.

“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.”

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.

Moving forward

Despite the opposition, it appears FMCSA intends to put the changes into effect as planned.

“It sounds like it’s moving in the right direction,” Jay Grimes, OOIDA’s director of federal affairs, told Land Line Now earlier this week.

“Mullen certainly commented on the rulemaking process and said that right now there is no effort to abate or hold off from that Sept. 29 date. He did say that the agency is continuing to review those petitions for reconsideration. They’re still doing their due diligence when it comes to outreach and education when it comes to a variety of stakeholders … (from) his comments and the overwhelming comments from drivers and stakeholders, we’re optimistic that Sept. 29 is going to be the date.”

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.