On August 14, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a plan that would adjust and restructure the hours of service (HOS) regulations for commercial truck and motor vehicle drivers. The FMCSA estimates its plan will save $274 million over the course of the next 10 years for the U.S. economy and American buyers. These savings would be most evident by increasing compliance percentages (subsequently reducing compliance costs), as well as growing the flexibility and adaptability of most trucking companies and motor carriers to help them optimize their operations.
It’s no surprise that over time, many users and leaders from the industry have voiced their concerns, requests and suggestions to help make the HOS rules more flexible and applicable to most organizations. As a result of these 5,200+ comments, the FMCSA released a statement that these five improvements would be made to the rule:
1. Lengthen the maximum timeframe that vehicle operation is allowed during inclement driving conditions by two hours. These conditions may include, but are not necessarily limited to: icy roads, sleet, snow, fog or mist and other hazardous road situations (which dispatch may or may not be aware of).
2. After a continuous period of eight hours of vehicle operation, drivers must break for a minimum of a half an hour. This time can ultimately be reported as “Sleeper Berth” or “On-Duty, Not Driving,” as opposed to “Off-Duty” (when performing non-driving, work-related tasks). As it sits now, drivers are required to break after eight hours since the previous “Sleeper Berth” or “Off-Duty” session of at least half an hour.
3. Adjust the maximum period that a short-haul driver may be on duty from the existing 12 hours to 14 hours. Additionally, their distance of operation will be increased from 100 to 150 air miles (172.6 land miles). Any driver who is operating a commercial vehicle within the 150 air miles, returns to their original departing or reporting position, and is then free from operation, or duty, within these 14 hours is exempt from the mandate to fill out the driver logs, use electronic logging devices to record HOS or take the previous half hour break.
4. Permit operators to divide their mandated 10 hours off-duty into two sessions. One session must be at least seven continuous hours in the sleeper berth, and one session must be at least two continuous hours either off-duty or in the sleeper berth. These sessions would not be tracked against the driver’s 14‑hour operation timeframe.
5. Drivers can pause their 14-hour vehicle operation timeframe with one off-duty break session n between a half hour and three hours. This allowance is available so long as the driver takes 10 continuous hours off-duty at the end of their duty shift. In effect, a driver could work up to a 17-hour timeframe with a three-hour break during their duty. One caveat, however, is that a driver would not be able to operate a motor vehicle for more than 11 hours during this session.