HOS pilot program would allow drivers to pause the clock

October 29, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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Nearly 200 people have already submitted comments on FMCSA’s proposed pilot program that would provide drivers the ability to pause their 14-hour clock anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours. The public has until Monday, Nov. 2, to provide input.

The pilot program would give FMCSA more data to see if such a provision in the hours-of-service regulations could be done without negatively affecting safety. Comments about the program can be made by going to the Regulations.gov website and entering Docket No. FMCSA-2020-0098-0001.

“This pilot program seeks to gather statistically reliable evidence whether decisions concerning the timing of such flexibility can be aligned with employers’, shippers’ and receivers’ scheduling preferences to optimize productivity while ensuring safety performance at a level equivalent to or greater than what would be achieved absent the regulatory relief,” the FMCSA notice stated.

The provision is reminiscent of a request OOIDA made in its 2018 petition to the agency. The pilot program would allow drivers the ability to pause the clock for at least 30 minutes and up to three hours. The driver would be required to take 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the shift.

More flexibility

Offering commercial motor vehicle drivers more flexibility within the hours-of-service rules has been a recent goal by the agency. FMCSA’s two-year push toward hours-of-service reform became a reality when its final rule went into effect on Sept. 29. The pilot program would provide an additional way for drivers to have more control over deciding when it is safe for them to drive and would they would be better served to pull over and take a quick nap.

The split-sleeper provision provides a pause option with a minimum of two hours and up to three hours. Drivers don’t necessarily have to take eight or seven hours in the sleeper later, because they could always take a 10-hour off-duty period and reset the on-duty clock for the next day.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s manager of government affairs, told Land Line Now that the provision in the pilot program would provide truckers even more flexibility than what is offered in the upcoming split-sleeper rule.

“Say that a driver wants to stop for an hour for whatever reason,” Matousek said. “(Under the upcoming rules,) instead of stopping for an hour, you’d have to stop for two if you wanted to pause your clock and use the split.”

The provision in the pilot program would allow the driver to rest for 30 minutes or an hour, while pausing the clock, and then get back on the road.

Nearly 200 comments on the HOS pilot program

As of Oct. 29, FMCSA had already received 198 comments on the pilot program. Many of the comments came from truck drivers seeking additional flexibility.

“The inability to pause the 14-hour clock places unnecessary stress on drivers and causes them to feel rushed,” wrote Ricky Johnson from Quinlan, Texas. “It makes no sense to me to not give drivers the ability to take a break during their day that does not cause them to feel rushed later because of the constantly ticking clock.”

OOIDA Board Member Danny Schnautz wrote that the current combination of ELDs and hours of service force truck drivers to park at a shipper or receiver for the next morning’s appointment, skip meals in case there is a road delay, miss home time because of a brief change in the schedule, lose the ability to earn additional money because of a brief change in the schedule, and to drive through poor conditions because of a clock that continues count down.

“This pause is essential to highway safety,” Schnautz wrote. “Apparently the unpredictability of trucking isn’t being made known to regulators and lawmakers. Drivers face a long list of delay possibilities, and these occur without any regard for one another. Bad weather can occur in rush hour, when you also have a breakdown.”

The California Highway Patrol is opposed to the pilot program.

“It is the CHP’s belief that the adoption of any rule that extends the workday, regardless of the total number of off-duty hours taken during a work period, may increase fatigue, thereby jeopardizing public safety,” the California Highway Patrol wrote in formal comments.

More information about the pilot program and who would be eligible to participate can be found here. LL

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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.