Hours-of-service waiver sought by trucker who ran under emergency order

March 2, 2023

Mark Schremmer


For a large portion of the past three years, truck driver John Olier had substantial control over his work schedule because he was operating under a waiver.

The truck driver from Tucson, Ariz., would like to keep it that way.

Olier has asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for a permanent, personal exemption from many of the requirements in the hours-of-service regulations. Specifically, Olier is asking for exemptions from the 11-, 14- and 70-hour rules, as well as the mandatory break periods.

“Over the course of the last three years, I have operated under various emergency declarations for FEMA operations, COVID-19 exemptions and while hauling agricultural exempt commodities for my company,” Olier wrote in his petition to the agency. “Under these conditions, I have found that my time driving has been far less stressful and anxiety inducing. I’m not rushed. I am able to run when I’m alert and sleep when I’m not. I no longer worry about situations like accidents, inclement weather events, or other disruptions to my schedule. I’m not working against the clock. I don’t lose time sitting or have to recover lost drive time. I have seen my overall health improve.”

Federal waiver

From March 2020 until Oct. 15, 2022, thousands of truck drivers were allowed to operate under a federal COVID-19 emergency declaration that allowed them to haul essential goods across the country without having to deal with stringent hours-of-service regulations.

According to data FMCSA provided to Land Line last year, the agency was aware of only two crashes involving truck drivers operating under the waiver. Both were single-vehicle crashes, and one occurred on private property.

“The agency has no information that suggests that past or existing emergency exemptions have in fact negatively impacted road safety,” FMCSA wrote in a December notice.

Regional waivers also are common in response to weather incidents and other emergencies.

Olier said that the flexibility provided to him under the waivers made him safer, healthier and more productive.

“I believe, as does the entirety of my company’s administrative and safety teams, that I have demonstrated enough self-awareness and discipline to continue to operate without restrictions on a more permanent basis,” he wrote. “They are fully aware this is for me and me alone, and it will not cause any problems or concerns within our organization. My productivity has skyrocketed. This is good for me, my family, my company and our dedicated customers that I service on my routes. Many of them have taken extra measures to accommodate the fast-paced schedule I have developed these last few years. They’re extremely appreciative of the higher amounts of freight I am delivering on time and without incident.”

Olier, who cited his military experience, said the exemption would be limited to him. However, he wrote that he believes there are others who also could benefit from the flexibility.

“While the petition is for myself, I believe that it could lead to more productive discussions within the industry as a whole, and I encourage that.”

Public comment

The notice of Olier’s request is scheduled to publish in the Federal Register on Friday, March 3. Once that happens, the public will have 30 days to comment. To do so, go to the Regulations.gov website and enter Docket No. FMCSA-2023-0051.

Olier provided links to articles on circadian rhythms and asked that anyone who comments to be respectful and to do some research.

“I ask that, if you comment, you do so with respect and consideration of others’ situations and needs,” he wrote.

“We are professionals and adults. This affects us all and should be taken seriously. Let’s be included in our government’s decision-making processes and drive real positive changes moving forward that will benefit all of us.” LL