HOS rule should be coming in ‘short order,’ FMCSA leader says

June 19, 2019

Mark Schremmer

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FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez testified to a Senate committee on Wednesday, June 19, that he expected the agency’s notice of proposed rulemaking for revised hours-of-service regulations to be published soon, but he did not provide a date.

“I do believe we are in the final stages of the process, and I’m hopeful that it will be short order,” Martinez said during the hearing for the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “I hesitate to put a date on it.”

As of now, FMCSA’s proposed rule continues to be reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget. OMB allows up for up to 90 days for review of proposed rules and allows for one 30-day extension. However, there is no assurance a rule will clear. A proposed speed-limiter rule was under review at OMB for more than a year before being killed.

U.S. Department Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced during the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., that a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding hours of service had been sent to OMB for review on March 28.

During Chao’s speech at the truck show, she didn’t provide specific details of the proposal but did promise that the agency had listened to truck drivers’ requests for more flexibility within the rules.

The Senate hearing was called to examine implementation of the FAST Act, which expires in 2020, and DOT priorities as Congress prepares for surface transportation reauthorization.

Martinez told lawmakers that the electronic logging device mandate, which took effect in December 2017, highlighted areas of the current hours-of-service regulations that may need to “adjust or improve.”

FMCSA issued an advance rule of proposed rulemaking in August 2018. The agency hosted five public listening sessions and received more than 5,200 comments. The message from truck drivers was clear. Drivers wanted more flexibility within the hours of service.

“Please know that we want to provide greater flexibility for drivers while maintaining the highest degree of safety as we move forward with this work,” Martinez said. “We look forward to receiving comments on our proposal and then moving forward quickly to make the needed regulatory changes.”

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., also asked Martinez specifically about the revised hours of service would impact livestock haulers.

“The hours-of-service changes, I believe, will apply across the board, but we have also prepared an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that would seek public comment on the definition of agricultural commodity and will inform us further on this matter.”

The pre-rule regarding livestock and ag haulers was sent to OMB in May and is under review.

“FMCSA seeks comment to assist in determining whether, and if so to what extent, the agency should revise or otherwise clarify the definitions of ‘agricultural commodity’ or ‘livestock’ in the hours-of-service regulations,” the abstract of the advance notice of proposed rulemaking stated in a Department of Transportation report on upcoming rulemakings.

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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.