OOIDA lends support to HOS reform as Sept. 29 effective date looms

August 4, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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The new hours-of-service rules that are set to go in effect on Sept. 29 will provide truckers more opportunities to rest when they are tired and will improve highway safety overall, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said in formal comments to the FMCSA.

OOIDA’s comments sent on Monday, Aug. 3, were in response to a petition for reconsideration of FMCSA’s final rule by the Teamsters and several safety groups.

The new rules

  • The on-duty limits for short-haul operations will increase from 12 to 14 hours and from 100 air-miles to 150.
  • The adverse driving provision will extend the driving window two hours if the driver encounters adverse driving conditions. In the final rule, the definition of “adverse driving” was modified so that the exception may be applied based on the driver’s (in addition to the dispatcher’s) knowledge of the conditions after being dispatched.
  • In addition to splits of 10/0 and 8/2, drivers will be allowed a split-sleeper option of 7/3. Also, the qualifying period doesn’t count against the 14-hour window.
  • The 30-minute break provision will be modified to require the break after eight hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time) and allows an on-duty/not driving period to qualify as the required break.

“The weakening of the hours-of-service rules will undoubtedly endanger the lives of truck drivers and the citizens with whom they share the roads every day,” the organizations wrote.

OOIDA, however, contends that the new rules will accomplish the intended goal of providing drivers with more flexibility and control over their own schedules.

“For many years, our members have repeatedly told lawmakers and the FMCSA that the existing hours-of-service rules are not sensible for today’s trucking industry,” OOIDA wrote in formal comments signed by President and CEO Todd Spencer. “They are overly complex and provide virtually no flexibility for drivers. 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.

“The unyielding 14-hour clock also pressures truckers to drive faster when they’re running short on available time. Additionally, drivers are frequently at the mercy of shippers and receivers in regards to loading and unloading their truck, which consumes between 11 and 20 hours in an average each week. Consequently, today’s hours-of-service requirements have not resulted in statistical improvements to highway safety. In fact, we would argue they jeopardize highway safety.”

Sleeper berth

The new rule gives drivers an additional split-sleeper option of 7/3, and the qualifying period doesn’t count against the 14-hour window.

“OOIDA supports the agency’s modification of the split sleeper-berth provision,” the Association wrote. “This additional flexibility will improve drivers’ rest and alertness. It makes far more sense to allow alert drivers to leave the sleeper-berth and begin to drive with the option to obtain additional rest later in the day, rather than forcing drivers to idly wait for their driving clock to begin again, which can essentially cause a trucker to drive when tired and rest when alert.”

30-minute break

The 30-minute break requirement remains, but instead of having to be off-duty the driver can now use the break in a variety of ways.

Such tasks as getting fuel, completing paperwork, making sure the load is secure, and doing an equipment check will now satisfy the break mandate. Considering that drivers already will need to stop for those tasks or to get a quick drink and stretch their legs, the change should provide added flexibility.

“The modification of the 30-minute break requirement will also help drivers stay on schedule and help them better plan their routes and trips,” OOIDA wrote. “Giving drivers the choice to take the break in the sleeper-berth or on-duty, not-driving will allow them to fulfill the break during the normal course of their day when they are inspecting their cargo, fueling the truck, or stopping to eat. The provision will also help eliminate instances where drivers are compelled to make unnecessary stops or forced to pull over in unsafe locations.”

Adverse driving

The current hours-of-service regulations already have an “adverse driving” provision. However, the FMCSA said it is seldom used. This change intends to make use of the provision more advantageous by allowing the driving window to be increased by two hours.

The definition includes unforeseen traffic conditions, as well as weather conditions.

FMCSA said the updated rule will allow drivers time to park and wait out the adverse driving condition or drive slowly through it. The agency said the change has the potential to decrease crash risk relative to current requirements.

“We believe this change will also help drivers who were previously hesitant to use the exception because law enforcement personnel often use their own subjective evaluation to determine whether the exception is appropriate,” the Association wrote.

Short haul

This change extends the maximum allowable workday for property- and passenger-carrying commercial motor vehicle drivers under the short-haul exception from 12 to 14 hours to correspond with the 14-hour limit for property-carrying drivers.

It also extends the existing distance restriction from 100 air-miles to 150 to be to be consistent with the radius requirement for the short-haul exception applicable to drivers of commercial motor vehicles not requiring a CDL. Truck drivers will continue to be limited to 11 hours of driving time, passenger carrier drivers will be limited to 10 hours.

“Extending the short-haul exception will provide short-haul drivers additional flexibility to complete their trips and return home if they encounter unforeseen delays during their work schedules,” OOIDA wrote. “As long as short-haul drivers do not exceed 11 hours of on-duty driving time, then they should have an equal number of working hours in their daily schedules.”

Overall

OOIDA said it believes the new hours-of-service rules are a step in the right direction and would like the FMCSA to consider allowing 6/4 and 5/5 split-sleeper options in the future.

However, the Association said the rule is a good starting point and supports the changes taking effect on Sept. 29.

“The final hours-of-service rule 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,” OOIDA wrote. “As the rulemaking repeatedly makes clear, these hours-of-service reforms will not increase available driving time. The changes will help reverse the rising crash rates highway users have experienced since the inception of existing hours-of-service standards.”

Mark Schremmer

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.