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The Hours of Service Proposal - Flexibility and Concerns

Get details on the proposed Hours of Service changes from FMCSA.
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Mark Schedler - Sr. DOT Editor - J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

August 23 , 2019

The much-anticipated hours-of-service proposal has a lot to consider for large and small carriers alike. The proposal certainly offers flexibility to carriers and drivers, and there are sure to be concerns expressed with the provisions as well. In short, the five potential changes are:

 

CDL-vehicle short-haul exception limits would increase the duty window from 12 to 14-consecutive hours, and the air-mile radius from 100 air miles to 150 air-miles.
The adverse driving provision would allow a property-carrying vehicle driver up to a 16-hour window within which to complete up to 13 hours of driving if adverse conditions are encountered. A passenger-carrying vehicle driver could drive up to 12 hours out of 17 total hours.
The 30-minute break prohibits driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least one 30-minute change of duty status to on-duty (not driving), off-duty, or sleeper-berth time. The intent is to require a break from driving for a very long stretch to reduce time-on-task.
The split-sleeper-berth option would allow two periods of a minimum of 7 hours in the sleeper and a minimum of 2 hours off-duty. The combined breaks must total 10-hours. For example, a 7-hour sleeper-berth period and a 3-hour off-duty break would be required if taking a 7-hour sleeper-berth break. Along with one less hour of mandatory sleeper-berth time, both periods would pause the 14-hour clock.
And last but not least, the split-duty provision. Drivers would have the option of stopping the 14-hour clock once per duty day for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to three hours consecutively. A driver could drive up to 11 hours in a 17-consecutive hour window.

 

As you ponder which options may work for your operation, there are some concerns and considerations for each proposed change.

CDL Vehicle Short-Haul Exception

The CDL vehicle short-haul exception may allow carriers to reduce the number of ELDs in use. However, carriers must track the driver’s start time, end time, and total on-duty time each day because local drivers are subject to the 60-/70-hour limits. Staying under 60 hours in 7 days may be more of an issue with extended workdays. An ELD offers a tracking mechanism that helps avoid violations. The ELD’s connection to the engine can also provide telematics to help improve fuel efficiency, monitor speed, and other driver performance metrics.

Adverse Driving Exception

The adverse driving exception currently requires the condition to be unknown at the time of dispatch. With today’s technology and information available, it is hard not to know about harsh weather or construction issues in advance. That said, FMCSA wants feedback on the requirement for no awareness of the condition before dispatch and the definition of “adverse conditions.” If drivers are operating in poor road conditions after being awake for 15 or more hours, it may be time to pull over instead of driving.

30-Minute Break

The allowance of on-duty (not driving) time to satisfy the minimum 30-minute break before exceeding eight-consecutive hours of driving, could positively impact service if drivers skip off-duty breaks. However, drivers may need time to eat and visit a restroom instead of pressing on to delivery.  Also, many drivers may need only need 15 minutes to fuel, and a 30-consecutive minute break may result in waiting 15 more minutes before moving. Several drivers commented during the FMCSA listening session on August 23rd in Dallas on wanting the ability to add up breaks to achieve 30 minutes of cumulative breaks from driving to satisfy this requirement.

Split-Sleeper-Berth Option

Team drivers for a 5/5 or 6/4 split-sleeper option may be a bit disappointed with the proposed 7/3 split. However, many drivers were vocal about 8-consecutive hours being too long in the sleeper, so FMCSA proposed the minimum 7-hour sleeper period to match drivers’ average sleep of 6.15 hours according to Hanowski (2007). The flexibility of both periods pausing the 14-hour clock can lead to more drivers using the exception. Nonetheless, if a driver uses the split-sleeper multiple days in a row without a 10-consecutive hour off-duty period, his or her sleep period could shift outside of normal circadian rhythm which can lead to less restorative rest.

Split-Duty Provision

Sleeper-berth and non-sleeper vehicle drivers can use the split-duty provision, but it could be a concern if the driver can’t rest beyond putting his or her head on the steering wheel in a day cab. Drivers could use this option to drive up to 11 hours in a 17-consecutive hour window without restorative rest, so carriers would need to monitor the effect on driver fatigue and the correct logging of off-duty time.

Share Your Comments with FMCSA

These are the first hours-of-service limits’ changes in quite a while, so your comments are essential to get the best final rule. Offer comments on any of the proposed changes on or before October 7, 2019, under docket number FMCSA-2018-0248-0454 at www.regulations.gov or click on the following link:

https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FMCSA-2018-0248-5454

Keep in mind that a final rule may take a while due to FMCSA’s consideration of comments.

For more details on the Hours of Service Proposal listen to our subject matter experts in this informative On-Demand webcast


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