On August 21, 2018, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) announced that it has commenced a rulemaking process that is aimed at reforming specific areas of the current hours-of-service regulation. The hours-of-service (HOS) regulation was enacted to limit the total operating hours a commercial truck driver works on duty. The FMCSA will be examining four areas of the existing regulation. Once decided, the new rules, will be published as an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
The four specific areas “under consideration for revision” by the agency include:
- Expanding the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers;
- Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to 2 hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions;
- Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after 8 hours of continuous driving; and
- Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment.
The Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will be seeking the public comment and relevant data on two petitions that were recently submitted and requested regulatory relief. These petitions asked for relief from the HOS rules in regards to the 14-hour on-duty limitation. This request was filed by the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association, and TruckerNation filed a request regarding the 10-hour off-duty requirement.
The FMSCA explained that the pre-rule is in response to the “widespread congressional, industry, and citizen concerns and seeks feedback from the public to determine if HOS revisions may alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers while maintaining safety on our nation’s highways and roads.”
The comment period will be opened to the public regarding the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Registration for 30 days. The agency also claimed that while compliance with the ELD rule has reached about 99% of the trucking industry, it has also brought focus to HOS regulations. Specifically, it brought focus to “certain regulations having a significant impact on agriculture and other sectors of trucking.”
While extending the current regulations for hours on duty for short-haul truckers may make them “consistent” with those for long-haul truckers, this does not necessarily correlate to truckers’ safety, nor the safety of others, on the road. Extending limitations on HOS regulations may benefit the trucking industry, but does not mean that such benefit will extend to the truckers themselves, who as are often pushed to the brink of exhaustion.
The agency broadcasted the first public listening sessions on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on August 24th, 2018 at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, Texas.