Railroad groups’ HOS request open for comment until Sept. 21

September 17, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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The Association of American Railroads, and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association want an hours-of-service exemption for their workers who operate commercial motor vehicles. The public has until Sept. 21 to provide their input on the request.

The railroad groups want a slew of exemptions within the hours-of-service rules, including driving a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle without first taking 10 consecutive hours off duty, driving after the 14th hour, driving more than 11 hours, driving without a 30-minute break, and driving after 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days.

FMCSA published a notice of the exemption request in the Federal Register on Aug. 20. Comments about the request can be made here, or by going to the regulations.gov website and entering Docket No. FMCSA-2020-0171.

According to the notice, the exemption would enable railroad employees subject to the hours-of-service rules to respond to unplanned events that occur outside of or extend beyond the worker’s normal hours.

As of the morning of Thursday, Sept. 17, only three comments had been submitted. One of the comments came from the Association of American Railroads and another came in support from railroad worker Justin Fowler.

“My job is not a job that fits into a traditional commercial motor vehicle category as I do not drive all day every day,” Fowler wrote. “Ninety-nine percent of my work does not involve driving, thus on the occasions where long hours are required it can be quite difficult to find transportation for everyone once the emergency is resolved and thus this exemption is needed.”

An anonymous commenter wrote that the railroads should do a better job planning.

“What they are really requesting appears to be an exemption from management duties.”

If approved, the exemption would extend the 14-hour duty period to 17 hours and would extend the 60-hour and 70-hour limits by no more than six hours.

According to the railroad associations, the exemption would cover 20,000 drivers and 11,000 commercial motor vehicles.

“When an emergency occurs, these drivers are needed to repair railroad structures that allow trains to transport critical materials and goods,” the groups wrote in their request. “Their work can be time sensitive, at remote locations, and occur on short notice at any time of the day.”

The groups also emphasized that workers drive “relatively short distances” and that only a small percentage of their work time involves driving.

If approved, the temporary exemption would be for five years.

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.