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FMCSA PROPOSED CHANGES TO CREATE FLEXIBILITY IN HOS RULES

Learn the implications of FMCSA's recently proposed changes to the hours-of-service rules.
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Mark Schedler - Sr. DOT Editor - J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

August 28 , 2019

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) much-anticipated, proposed changes to the hours-of-service (HOS) rules is in response to industry stakeholders’ requests for more flexible hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. Based on the 5,200 comments received, 1,000 of which were from drivers, FMCSA proposed five revisions to the existing rules:

1. 30-minute break (to avoid driving more than 8 consecutive hours)

Explanation: The 30-minute break would require either an off-duty or on-duty (not driving) period of at least 30 minutes to prevent more than eight consecutive hours of driving time without interruption.

Implications:

  • Possible improvement in service being able to use on-duty (not driving) time, such as fueling, to satisfy what was previously an off-duty break.
  • Drivers that do not drive more than 8 consecutive hours at a time may increase productivity.
  • A driver can take a break when it benefits him or her most (but carriers should already be encouraging breaks from several consecutive hours of driving).
  • Some unsafe parking issues, such as on entrance ramps, may be alleviated.

2. Split sleeper-berth

Explanation: Modifying the sleeper-berth exception would allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods, with neither period counting against the driver’s 14-hour driving window. The two periods must still add up to 10 hours but would need to include:

  • One period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth; and
  • Another period of not less than two consecutive hours, either off-duty or in the sleeper berth.

Implications:

  • Split-sleeper may be used more frequently due to both split-break periods pausing the 14-hour clock and the ease of calculating the remaining drive time and on-duty time.
  • Productivity may increase by using the shorter break period to include delay time at customer sites or other locations. However, the driver must be released from duty and able to pursue activities of his or her choosing for waiting time to be logged as off-duty time.
  • Carriers would need to audit for proper logging of off-duty time.
  • Drivers may drive much later into the night and sleep periods could be significantly shifted, so carriers will need to be especially cognizant of fatigue levels.
  • A driver using this split-sleeper break or the split-duty provision may discover that parking is even harder to find later in the evening after pausing the 14-hour clock.

3. Split-duty provision (one break of 30 minutes to 3 hours pauses the 14-hour clock)

Explanation: The rule would allow one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than three hours, that would pause a driver’s 14-hour clock. The driver must take ten consecutive hours off duty at the end of the work shift, so this could not be combined with the split-sleeper exception on a given day.

Implications:

  • The 14-hour clock could be paused to avoid congestion, or offset delays.
  • Instances of speeding after lengthy delays and driver stress may be reduced.
  • Vehicle miles per hour of operation may increase along with fuel efficiency.
  • Non-sleeper-berth equipped vehicle drivers could use the exception.
  • Drivers may be driving much later into the night and sleeping outside of the usual sleep period. Reactions after being awake 18 hours are the same as having a .05 blood alcohol content (BAC) per the CDC. Carriers must not allow drivers to run ill or fatigued (see §392.3).

4. Adverse driving conditions exception

Explanation: The adverse driving conditions exception would extend the maximum driving window by two hours along with the 2 additional hours of driving that is currently permitted. Property-carrying drivers could drive up to 13 hours in a 16-consecutive hour window, and passenger-carrying drivers could drive up to 12 hours out of a total 17 on-duty hours.

Implications:

  • Drivers may benefit from delaying driving until adverse conditions abate or driving more slowly in adverse conditions. However, the driver may be very fatigued in the worst conditions.

5. Short-haul exception

Explanation: CDL vehicle drivers could work within a 150 air-mile radius and be allowed to return to the work location within 14-consecutive hours. There is no impact to non-CDL vehicle short-haul drivers.

Implications:

  • Increased local-driver productivity is likely with a larger operating area and extended workdays along with the potential to use the 16-hour “big day” exception (see §395.1(o)) once in 7 days or after a 34-hour restart. A log would be required when driving over 14-consecutive hours.
  • Drivers will not need ELDs unless they log more than eight times in a 30-day period. Fleets with a mix of short-haul drivers with ELDs and timecards may need fewer ELDs.
  • Many short-haul exceptions for specific industries, carriers, or products would be unnecessary.

What Will Happen Next?

Industry stakeholders may comment on the proposed rules for 45 days upon publication in the Federal Register. Following the comment period, FMCSA will again consider those comments before issuing a final rule. The compliance date of a final rule could be as far down the road as late 2020.


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