Time is now to comment on HOS plan

October 21, 2019

Mark Schremmer


Today is the day. For truck drivers, it’s the final chance to comment on an hours-of-service proposal that is likely to have a great impact on trucking for years to come.

In August, the FMCSA released a notice of proposed rulemaking aimed at providing drivers more flexibility within the hours-of-service regulations. Oct. 21 is the final day to submit comments.

The plan has five main changes, increasing short-haul limits, amending the adverse driving provision and the 30-minute break requirement, adding a split sleeper berth option, and providing drivers the opportunity to stop the clock once per duty period.

OOIDA said the proposal is a step in the right direction.

“The proposed changes 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 in comments signed by President and CEO Todd Spencer.

However, the Association would also like to see the agency take steps to prevent drivers from being coerced by shippers and receivers or motor carriers as well as eliminate the 30-minute rest break and add more split sleeper berth options.

Short-haul limits

The change for short-haul operations would extend the driving window from 12 hours to 14 hours and the distance from 100 air miles to 150.

OOIDA supports the change.

“Extending the short-haul exception would provide short-haul providers additional flexibility to complete their trips and return home if they encounter unforeseen delays during their work schedules,” OOIDA wrote.

Adverse driving provision

The proposal would allow a truck driver up to a 16-hour driving window within which to complete up to 13 hours of driving if the driver encounters adverse conditions.

An adverse driving provision already exists, but it is rarely used in its current form.

OOIDA is supportive of the proposal but would like to see the definition be expanded.

“OOIDA recommends that the definition be modified to include other circumstances like unusual traffic congestion, accidents, construction, detours, or road closures. We also believe an updated definition could help clarify some of the current confusion between drivers and law enforcement personnel about which situations are appropriate for utilizing the provision.”

30-minute break requirement

FMCSA proposes to make the 30-minute break requirement applicable only in situations where a driver has driven for a period of eight hours without at least a 30-minute nondriving interruption.

OOIDA says this change is an improvement over the current rules but would like to see the requirement eliminated.

“Ideally, FMCSA should completely eliminate the current 30-minute break as required,” OOIDA wrote. “The needless and unfounded requirement does not correspond to the realities of freight movement.”

If FMCSA won’t consider eliminating the break, OOIDA suggests allowing truck drivers to split the break into multiple segments totaling 30 minutes.

“This would improve safety and efficiency as it allows the driver to take a break when he or she needs it without unnecessarily reducing their available drive time,” OOIDA wrote. “Members stated that shorter, more frequent breaks increase driver performance and alertness and would allow for more frequent stops without lengthening the overall work day. Moreover, members said that splitting up the 30-minute break would also help to improve overall health of drivers as it allows them to get up and move around more often.”

Split sleeper berth options

FMCSA’s plan would allow drivers to take a split sleeper berth option of 7/3 in addition to current splits of 10/0 and 8/2.

OOIDA approves of the addition of a 7/3 split but would like to see additional options of 6/4 and 5/5.

“These splits would increase flexibility, allowing drivers to increase their productivity without compromising safety.

“In fact, these splits would help to increase both safety and health and wellness. The truth is that not all drivers are able to sleep eight or 10 hours at a time. Several members stated that they struggle to sleep more than six hours. Thus, allowing them to split their sleeper time more efficiently will allow them to gain more adequate rest, resulting in increased alertness and better driver performance.”

Split-duty period

FMCSA proposes to add an option that would allow drivers to stop the clock a minimum of 30 minutes and up to three hours consecutively once per duty period.

OOIDA is in favor of the addition.

“This provision does not increase maximum driving time or maximum on-duty time, or decrease minimum off-duty rest periods between shifts,” OOIDA wrote. “Drivers would have more chances to get sufficient rest and would not be as stressed to ‘beat the 14-hour clock.’ This would result in positive benefits for driver health and highway safety.”

Comments encouraged

Time is almost up, and OOIDA is strongly encouraging all truck drivers to submit their comments on the proposal.

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

“The agency needs to justify the changes that they make, and we are especially pleased that they are reaching out to the real experts – the people who face these situations every day,” Spencer said. “Your feedback is instrumental … What would work best and why? You guys are the experts. Show that you are in your comments to the agency.”