A major transportation safety group weighed in on new HOS rules — and they aren’t impressed

There's still time to submit your own comments on HOS changes to the FMCSA.

NTSB

A federal transportation safety group has weighed in on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) proposed changes to Hours of Service regulations and found that there is “no evidence” that the changes will improve highway safety. 

On September 20, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) submitted formal comments on the FMCSA’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM) on truck driver Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. 

NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt wrote:

“Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that the modifications to the HOS regulations discussed in the ANPRM will improve safety. Before proposing any changes to the HOS regulations, the FMCSA should determine how such changes would affect the amount of sleep obtained by CMV drivers, how they might affect circadian cycles, and, ultimately, how they would affect the safety of those drivers and the motoring public.”

The NTSB also chided the FMCSA for using ELDs as an excuse to relax regulations: “…we reject the notion that the improved capability to enforce the HOS regulations made possible by the implementation of ELDs provides a rationale to weaken those regulations.”

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The NTSB said that they have “long supported science-based HOS regulations to reduce the likelihood of fatigue-related crashes.” The group cited safety recommendations issued to the FMCSA in 1999 asking for “scientifically based” changes to HOS and said that they stand by that decades-old recommendation.

Specifically, the 1999 recommendation asked the FMCSA to “Establish within 2 years scientifically based hours-of-service regulations that set limits on hours of service, provide predictable work and rest schedules, and consider circadian rhythms and human sleep and rest requirements. At a minimum, and as recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board in 1995, the revised regulations should also (a) require sufficient rest provisions to enable drivers to obtain at least 8 continuous hours of sleep after driving for 10 hours or being on duty for 15 hours, and (b) eliminate 49 Code of Federal Regulations 395.1 paragraph (h), which allows drivers with sleeper berth equipment to cumulate the 8 hours off-duty time in two separate periods.”

You can view a brief overview of the proposed changes to HOS regulations listed in the ANPRM below. 

  • The Agency proposes to increase safety and flexibility for the 30 minute break rule by tying the break requirement to eight hours of driving time without an interruption for at least 30 minutes, and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on duty, not driving status, rather than off duty. 
     
  • The Agency proposes to modify 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.
     
  • The Agency proposes to allow 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 Agency proposes to modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
     
  • The Agency proposes a change to 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.

Nearly 7000 comments on the HOS changes have been received so far. You can still add your own comment through October 21 by clicking here.

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