FMCSA Issues Final Hours-of-Service Rule Update

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration this week issued a long-awaited final rule making some changes in the hours-of-service rules that commercial motor vehicle drivers must obey.

FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen said “The Department of Transportation and the Trump Administration listened directly to the concerns of truckers seeking rules that are safer and have more flexibility—and we have acted. These updated hours of service rules are based on the thousands of comments we received from the American people. These reforms will improve safety on America’s roadways and strengthen the nation’s motor carrier industry.”

The changes have been a long time coming – FMCSA issued an advance rulemaking notice in August 2018 and then followed that up with a proposed rule in August 2019. The final rule (which won’t actually be “final” until the hard copy is printed in the Federal Register next week) largely follows the August 2019 proposed rule, which ETW summarized here. (See the table at the end of this article for details.)

Industry reaction varied:

  • The American Trucking Associations, representing trucking companies, was unsurprisngly in favor of the new rule. ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said in a statement that the new rule “will result in needed flexibility for America’s professional truck drivers while maintaining the safety of our roads.”
  • The Teamsters union, representing drivers at many (but by no means all) of the ATA member companies, was unsurprisingly against the new rule. In a statement, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said “Trucking is already one of the nation’s most dangerous jobs. We shouldn’t be sacrificing the health and safety of drivers just to pad the profits of their big business bosses.”
  • Somewhere in the middle were the folks who are both trucking company and driver – the drivers who own their own trucks. Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association Executive VP Laurie Pugh said “After a lengthy regulatory process, truckers will soon have a little bit more control over their daily schedules. While we were hoping for some additional changes, such as more split-sleeper options and more flexibility to use the 30-minute break, all things considered we’re happy with the final rule.”

The following comparison of the old rule, the new rule, and its impacts is taken directly from Table 2 in the final rule document.

HOS Provision Existing Rule Revised Rule Impacts

Drivers using the short-haul (100 air-mile radius) exception may not be on-duty more than 12 hours.

Drivers using the short-haul (150 air-mile radius) exception applicable to drivers not requiring a CDL may not drive beyond the 14th or 16th hour on-duty, depending upon the number of days on duty.

Extends the maximum duty period allowed under the short-haul exception from 12 hours to 14 hours.

Extends the maximum radius of the short-haul exception from 100 to 150 air-miles.

Increases the number of drivers able to take advantage of the short-haul (150 air-mile) exception.

Potentially shifts work and drive time from long-haul to short-haul exception, or from driver to driver.

Minimum or no change to hours driven or aggregate VMT.

Adverse Driving Conditions

A driver may drive and be permitted or required to drive a CMV for not more than 2 additional hours beyond the maximum time allowed. However, this does not currently extend the maximum “driving windows.”

Allows a driver to extend the maximum “driving window” by up to 2 hours during adverse driving conditions. This change applies both to drivers of property- carrying CMVs (14-hour “driving window”) and passenger-carrying CMVs (15-hour “driving window”).

Increases the use of the adverse driving condition provision.

Allows driving later in the workday, potentially shifting forward the hours driven and VMT travelled.

Allows drivers time to park and wait out the adverse driving condition or to drive slowly through it. This has the potential to decrease crash risk relative to current requirements, assuming drivers now drive through adverse driving conditions.

No increase in freight volume or aggregate VMT.

30-minute break

If more than 8 consecutive hours have passed since the last off-duty (or sleeper berth) period of at least half an hour, a driver must take an off-duty break of at least 30 minutes before driving.

Requires a 30-minute break only when a driver has driven for a period of 8 hours without at least a 30-minute interruption. If required, the break may be satisfied by any non-driving period of 30 minutes, i.e. on-duty, off-duty, or sleeper berth time.

Increases the on-duty/non-driving time by up-to 30 minutes, or allow drivers to reach their destination earlier.

No anticipated fatigue effect because drivers continue to be constrained by the 11-hour driving limit and would continue to receive on-duty/non-driving breaks from the driving task.

Minimal or no change to hours driven or VMT, as the current off- duty break only impacts these factors if the schedule required driving late within the 14-hour driving window.

Split-Sleeper Berth

A driver can use the sleeper berth to get the “equivalent of at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty.” To do this, the driver must spend at least 8 consecutive hours (but less than 10 consecutive hours) in the sleeper berth. This rest period does not count as part of the 14-hour limit. A second, separate rest period must be at least 2 (but less than 10) consecutive hours long. This period may be spent in the sleeper berth, off-duty, or sleeper berth and off-duty combined. It does count as part of the maximum 14-hour driving window.

Modifies the sleeper berth requirements to allow drivers to take their required 10 hours off-duty in two periods, provided one off-duty period (whether in or out of the sleeper berth) is at least 2 hours long and the other involves at least 7 consecutive hours spent in the sleeper berth. Neither period counts against the maximum 14-hour driving window.

Allow one hour to be shifted from the longer rest period to the shorter rest period.

Potentially increase the use of sleeper berths because drivers using a berth have additional hours to complete 11 hours of driving (by virtue of excluding the shorter rest period from the calculation of the 14-hour driving window).

No anticipated negative effect on fatigue because aggregate drive limits and off-duty time remains unchanged.

Hours driven or VMT may change for an individual driver on a given work shift (by increased use of the sleeper berth). Total hours driven or aggregate VMT would remain the same.

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