The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed reform to Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules that will improve safety and flexibility for commercial drivers.
FMCSA's proposed rule offers five key revisions to existing HOS rules, such as requiring a minimum of a 30-minute break for every eight hours of consecutive driving and allowing drivers to use the "on duty, not driving" status rather than the "off duty" status during breaks.
“This proposed rule seeks to enhance safety by giving America’s commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said.
The Agricultural Retailers Assn. (ARA) welcomed the changes.
"These reforms, including the short-haul exemption expansion for [Commercial Driver's License] drivers to 150 air-miles and the expansion of duty hours from 12 to 14 hours, will provide necessary flexibility for ARA members to meet the needs of their customers without adversely impacting transportation safety," ARA senior vice president of public policy and counsel Richard Gupton said.
It is estimated that this proposal will save American consumers and the U.S. economy an estimated $274 million and improve safety for all drivers on the nation's roadways, according to FMCSA.
The agency is proposing to increase safety and flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by tying the break requirement to eight hours of driving time without an interruption for at least 30 minutes and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty/not driving status rather than off-duty status.
In another move welcomed by the agriculture industry, DOT proposed to modify the sleeper berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, and the other period of no less than two consecutive hours either off duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.
The agency also proposed to allow one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not exceeding three hours, that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided that the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off duty at the end of the work shift.
DOT additionally proposed a change to the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the driver's maximum on‑duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air-miles to 150 air-miles.
FMCSA is encouraging everyone to review and comment on this proposal within the 45-day public comment period.
In 2018, FMCSA authored an advanced notice of proposed rule-making to receive public comments on portions of the HOS rules to alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers while maintaining safety on the nation’s highways and roads. In response, the agency received more than 5,200 public comments.