For nearly two years, the FMCSA gathered public commentary regarding hours of service (HOS) regulations. While HOS laws protect the safety of our roadways, many drivers and carriers disagreed with several key requirements. With electronic logging in place, transportation industry professionals argued against the modern applicability of several HOS provisions. Many felt that rigid HOS regulations hindered business agility and profitability.
In response, the FMCSA developed modernized hours of service regulations estimated to provide nearly $274 million in annualized cost savings for the U.S. economy and American consumers without sacrificing roadway safety.
On May 14th, 2020, the FMCSA announced the new final rule, scheduled to go into effect 120 days after publication in the Federal Register. Here are five things you can expect when the new HOS final rule goes live.
1. The agency made four key changes to address hours of service flexibility
After reviewing thousands of comments from the public, the FMCSA agreed-upon four changes to the hours of service regulations, to include:
- Altering the required 30-minute break rule so that it may be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not driving status, rather than off-duty status.
- Modifying the sleeper-berth exception, allowing drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 split, or a 7/3 split—with neither period counting against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.
- Modifying the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
- Changing the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ 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.
2. The new hours of service change is not an extension of the emergency provision
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States, the FMCSA responded by relaxing hours of service regulations. The emergency declaration and associated hours of service waiver, originally introduced in March, most recently continued on May 13th, 2020. Currently, the emergency waiver for hours of service remains in effect until June 14, 2020. This conditional provision only applies to drivers providing direct assistance for the COVID-19 relief effort. You can stay up to date with the emergency provision on the FMCSA website.
3. The new hours of service regulation does not increase driving time
Our lawmakers understand how hard fighting fatigue on the road can be. With the new changes, drivers still have an 8-hour maximum drive time. The aim of the new regulation is to address the flexibility and inefficiency issues around the HOS ruling without increasing the total number of hours drivers work in a day. Similarly, the rules around adverse driving conditions and hours of service do not change. However, the ruling does give more decision-making power so that he or she can determine whether the conditions are considered “adverse.”
4. Rest breaks and sleeping hours are still required
Just like with driving time, our drivers’ time off is equally important. The new rule provides greater flexibility in those breaks, giving drivers options so that they can better manage their schedules. For drivers requiring a 30-minute break per 8-hour shift, that break can now be taken while the driver is considered “on duty,” as long as they are not actively driving. This change gives both drivers and carriers more flexibility and puts more power of time management into the hands of the driver.
For owner-operators, they can now split their required 10-hour off-duty period, giving them greater flexibility. The new rule still requires 10 total hours off-duty, however, drivers can choose to take it all at once or split it up without affecting their 14-hour driving window.
5. You can read the full text online
Want to explore the full, 230+ page regulation? You can find it on the FMCSA site. In the full text, you’ll have access to the final rule and supplemental information, including legal analysis and discussions around common community feedback and rule implementation. In particular, the Discussions Around the Final Rule section, starting on page 168 of the full text, provide details and clarifications around short-haul operations, adverse conditions, breaks, and more, along with compliance requirements based on publication date.
Truckers play a key role in keeping the American economy moving. With these timely changes to the Hours of Service regulation, the FMCSA provides carriers and drivers the flexibility they need to operate with greater efficiency and cost savings without sacrificing safety. Be sure you get this information out to your drivers, so we can all hit the ground running once the rule goes into effect.
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