OOIDA makes pitch for more hours-of-service flexibility

October 31, 2022

Mark Schremmer

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Instead of providing exemptions to specific companies or segments of the industry, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association believes FMCSA should grant greater hours-of-service flexibility to all truck drivers.

“As the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is well aware, truckers face delays and challenges beyond their control every day,” OOIDA wrote to the agency. “Whether it be inclement weather, traffic accidents or excessive detention time, drivers face obstacles that make it difficult or nearly impossible to safely complete their work. All of these drivers, not just those in a single industry, want regulations that recognize these challenges while still ensuring safety.”

OOIDA’s call for increased flexibility in the hours-of-service regulations came in formal comments regarding the National Propane Gas Association’s request for an exemption from CFR 395.3.

In September, the propane association requested a five-year exemption for its member company drivers to do the following:

  • Extend the 14-hour duty period to no more than 17 hours.
  • Extend the 11-hour driving period to no more than 14 hours following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • Waive the 60- and 70-hour rules for a period of no more than six consecutive days.
  • Allow a period of six consecutive days to end with the beginning of an off-duty period of 34 or more consecutive hours.

The group says it needs the hours-of-service exemption to respond to high demand and to recover from emergency conditions.

OOIDA suggests that the agency take a more general look at the regulations.

“Instead of considering NPGA’s request in a vacuum, FMCSA should take a broader look at hours-of-service rules and flexibility,” OOIDA wrote. “Small-business truckers and professional drivers generally aren’t opposed to flexibility provided to specific operations, but they also see that special treatment inevitably provides an advantage to some businesses over others.

“Rather than picking winners and losers based on the case an industry can make about the importance of the cargo they haul, FMCSA should recognize the work all truckers do is essential and critical, especially after providing sweeping hours-of-service exemption for more than two years during the pandemic.”

This is the second time in recent months that OOIDA has called for the agency to provide drivers more control over when they feel it is safe to drive and when it is not.

In September, OOIDA asked the agency to expand the split-sleeper options and to allow drivers to pause their clock up to three hours.

The requests from the Association come after FMCSA granted drivers waivers through a COVID-19 emergency declaration for more than two-and-a-half years. In August, FMCSA told Land Line that it was aware of only two minor crashes involving truck drivers operating under the exemption.

“This offers strong evidence that drivers are generally not going to abuse additional hours-of-service flexibility at the risk of highway safety,” OOIDA wrote. “An experienced driver will know when they need to rest or take a break, and this data indicates more practical hours-of-service rules allow drivers to use their time more efficiently without endangering other highway users.”

OOIDA previously petitioned the agency for more flexibility in 2018. Some of the aspects of OOIDA’s petition were included in a rule change that took effect in September 2020.

Now, the Association wants additional revisions. However, FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson told Land Line in recent weeks that the agency isn’t planning any tweaks to hours of service in the immediate future.

“We’re not looking at additional modifications right now, but we do recognize that (an emergency waiver) is an important tool for us and the industry,” she said. LL

Truckstop.com

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.