Hours-of-service comments due Oct. 21

October 11, 2019

Mark Schremmer

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Only 10 days remain for truck drivers to comment on a proposal that could greatly affect working conditions and general highway safety for years to come.  In August, FMCSA revealed its proposal that promises to give truck drivers more flexibility within the hours-of-service regulations. The hours-of-service comment period is open until Oct. 21.

Prompted by an OOIDA petition and thousands of comments from truck drivers, the proposed reform aims to provide truckers the flexibility within the hours-of-service regulations in order to make the highways safer. Basically, the goal is to give truckers more freedom to stop when they are tired and to avoid driving in adverse weather conditions or heavy traffic.

The agency proposed five changes.

  • 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 within which to complete up to 13 hours of driving if the driver encounters adverse conditions.
  • The 30-minute break requirement would be modified, prohibiting driving for more than eight consecutive 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 three hours consecutively once per duty period.

The October issue of Land Line Magazine details each of the changes and breaks down how they might affect truck drivers.

Hours-of-service comments

As of Oct. 11, FMCSA had received 7,186 comments about the hours-of-service plan on the Regulations.gov website.

“I would like to thank FMCSA for the opportunity to comment on hours-of-service regs,” wrote OOIDA Board Member Mark Elrod. “Prior administrations have asked for comments but never really listened. I think and hope you will be different.”

Elrod went to write that he believes changes to the split sleeper berth rule could be the most beneficial for drivers.

“Anything that lets you rest when needed without punishing you is good,” he wrote. “I am not a machine and sometimes feel safe for long distance, but sometimes feel unsafe in 20 miles.”

Jeremy Moser, an OOIDA member from Pennsylvania, is one of the many commenters who say the current regulations force truckers to drive in unsafe conditions.

“As an independent truck driver of almost 19 years, the current regulations make our industry much more dangerous,” Moser wrote. “Drivers are forced to drive because they have a clock that limits the time they can stop to rest if needed or avoid the heaviest part of the traffic day in major city areas. “Going back to 5 and 5 or 6 and 4 split berthing, as well as having the ability to stop the 14-hour rule one or times per shift to allow for rest or traffic and not ruining our 14-hour clock would go a long way in making the roads safer for all.”

Public listening sessions

In addition to online comments, FMCSA hosted public listening sessions in Dallas and Washington, D.C.

During the listening sessions, OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh told FMCSA leaders that measures need to be taken to guard against coercion and suggested that the agency allow drivers to split their 30-minute break requirement into segments.

“I hope the agency will take the responsibility in preventing drivers from being coerced by carriers and shippers and receivers,” Pugh said. “Drivers for too long have been expendable commodities to a lot of people, including the government, and I hope that’s coming to a halt. Drivers are professionals, and they are not expendable by any means.”

OOIDA is encouraging all drivers to comment on the notice of proposed rulemaking. Comments may be made at the Regulations.gov website by using docket number FMCSA-2018-0248.

“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 said. “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.”

Mark Schremmer

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