By Al Muskewitz
Wright Media Editor-in-Chief
For truck drivers who have long complained about the scheduling pressures put on their day by current regulations some much-anticipated relief appears to be right around the bend.
The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration today formally proposed changing its hours-of-service rules. The changes basically increase flexibility in a driver’s 30-minute rest break, time spent in the sleeper berth, extend duty time for drivers facing bad weather by two hours and expand the current 100 air-mile short-haul exemption to be consistent with long-haul truck rules.
“These proposals are a common sense approach to crafting hours of service,” FMCSA Ray Martinez said in a conference call. “These tie to what drivers are finding in their daily work. They need some level of flexibility.”
Comments on the proposal will be accepted for 45 days after it appears in the Federal Register and Martinez encourages the public to respond.
Immediately after the comment period opened, more than 750 comments were submitted. Shortly thereafter the American Trucking Associations petitioned the FMCSA for a 30-day extension of the period to gather more information to strengthen its position.
The comment period closing date, Oct. 7, comes in the middle of the ATA’s annual conference, where it will be meeting to gather feedback from it’s members. The ATA believes the 30 days would be sufficient time to add its feedback to the public comments.
Specifically, the changes call for …
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.
Modifying the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
Increasing safety and flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by tying the break requirement to eight hours of driving time without an interruption of at least 30 minutes, and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not driving status, rather than off-duty.
Modifying 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 not 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.
Allowing one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than three hours, that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift.
The new rules would not result in any new costs, the proposal stated, but rather the flexibility would provide a reduction in cost for carriers. The FMCSA estimated the 30-minute break alone would save carriers a collective $2.3 billion over 10 years.
Industry organizations welcomed the proposed changes. In the recent annual CVSA International Roadcheck, nearly 1,200 Hours of Service violations were recorded by inspectors, 37.2 percent of all violations.
“We applaud the Agency’s efforts to create safety-first, data-driven regulations,” Truckload Carriers Association president John Lyboldt said.
“In the 15 years since the last major revisions to the hours-of-service, we as an industry have learned a great deal about how these rules impact our drivers,” American Trucking Associations chairman Barry Pottle said. “The valuable experience and data we’ve gained over that time will make it easier to provide flexibility for drivers to get additional rest and find parking while keeping our highways safe.”
“I spent nearly 25 years driving (a) truck, so I’m qualified to say that the existing hours-of-service regulations are ‘misguided’ to put it politely,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh said. “Administrator Martinez committed to working with (the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association) to address this issue, and he’s following through on it. Not only do we want to express our sincere thanks to him and his team, but we also want to thank our members for everything they’ve done to get us to this point. In this case, persistence has paid off, and we’re going to do everything we can to get these changes across the finish line.”
Which proposed change do you find most appealing/beneficial? Answer in the comments section below.
By Al Muskewitz