Hours-of-service proposal better reflects reality, OOIDA says

October 15, 2019

Mark Schremmer

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FMCSA’s proposal for hours-of-service reform is “a welcomed shift toward developing regulations that better reflect the realities of trucking and improve safety for all highway users,” the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association wrote in formal comments to the agency.

On Tuesday, Oct. 15, OOIDA submitted 15 pages of comments regarding FMCSA’s notice of proposed rulemaking for hours-of-service regulations. The agency will accept comments from the public until Oct. 21.

The proposal

After receiving a petition from OOIDA in February 2018 and issuing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking a few months later, FMCSA released a proposal in August that included five main changes to the 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 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.

FMCSA said the goal of the changes is to provide more flexibility to drivers, providing them more opportunity to stop when they are tired or when traffic or weather creates an unsafe driving environment.

“OOIDA strongly supports the agency’s approach, which will provide drivers more opportunities to rest when they are tired, to stay off the road during adverse driving conditions, and to maintain greater control over their own schedules,” the Association wrote in comments signed by President and CEO Todd Spencer.

A growing problem

Hours of service is an issue that has needed to be addressed for years, OOIDA said.

“For many years, OOIDA members have repeatedly told lawmakers that the existing hours-of-service rules are not sensible for today’s trucking industry,” OOIDA wrote.

According to a 2017 survey conducted by the OOIDA Foundation, three of the top five regulations that owner-operators said should be eliminated or amended were related to hours of service. Those regulations included the 14-hour provision, the split sleeper-berth restriction, and the rest break provision. The No. 1 unwanted regulation listed was the ELD mandate, which many truckers have said placed a spotlight on the lack of flexibility in the hours of service.

“The current hours-of-service regulations that dictate a truck driver’s work schedule are overly complex, provide virtually no flexibility, and in no way reflect the physical capabilities or limitations of individual drivers,” OOIDA wrote.

By placing strict regulations on when truckers can’t drive, the rules put pressure on truck drivers, who are mostly paid by the mile to drive during the window that the hours of service allow regardless of traffic, weather or fatigue.

“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,” OOIDA wrote. “The unyielding 14-hour clock also pressures truckers to drive faster when they’re running short on available time.”

Since the last major changes to hours of service regulations in 2013, the number of crashes involving large trucks and the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks has increased by 45.4% and 8.7%, respectively.

“While a majority of these crashes are the fault of other vehicles, it’s still an alarming statistic, and changes to the hours-of-service rules will reduce crashes,” OOIDA wrote.

Preventing coercion

The Association said a key to the success of the hours-of-service proposal will be for the agency to help prevent drivers from being coerced by shippers and receivers or motor carriers.

“The provisions included in the notice of proposed rulemaking will provide much needed flexibility and do not increase the maximum allowable driving time,” OOIDA wrote. “However, in order for these changes to have the most safety benefits, drivers should have sole discretion about how and when to use these provisions. Drivers have the best understanding of when they should take a break, when road conditions are too dangerous, and when they should rest.”

Still, OOIDA would like to see even more changes to the existing regulations.

“OOIDA believes that the notice of proposed rulemaking is a practical step in reforming the current hours-of-service regulations but that any final rulemaking should entirely eliminate the currently required 30-minute break and should expand the split sleeper-berth options beyond just 7 and 3,” the Association wrote.

Comments encouraged

OOIDA said it hopes these changes will be implemented as soon as possible.

“Together, these important improvements will help reverse the rising crash rates highway users have experienced since the inception of existing hours-of-service standards.

“We believe that these proposals, if implemented, will not only help the trucking industry and benefit highway safety, but can drive economic growth across the country, creating new opportunities and greater job security for millions of hard-working Americans.”

OOIDA strongly encourages all truck drivers to submit comments on the proposal before the Oct. 21 deadline.

Comments can be made at the Regulations.gov website by using docket number FMCSA-2018-0248.

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.