DOT promises truckers ‘increased flexibility’ in Hours of Service rules soon

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Today, the head of U.S. Department of Transportation made a major announcement about upcoming changes to Hours of Service regulations.

During a keynote speech delivered at the Mid-American Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday, March 29, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao confirmed that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is moving forward with changes to the Hours of Service regulations that truck drivers must follow.

According to the FMCSA, “While this proposed rule is still under review, FMCSA is working to increase flexibility for drivers, while maintaining the highest level of safety for commercial drivers and all American motorists.”

While the exact nature of the planned changes to Hours of Service remain unclear, comments that Chao made during a March 27th U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing indicate that she is aware of the hardships that truckers endure as a result of strict regulation.

Chao said:

“Well, this is what happens when there’s a one-size-fits-all solution – it doesn’t work across the country because our country is so diverse. And obviously with electronic logging devices, that created hardships for small truckers and also created hardships for agricultural interests, farmers, people who are hauling in rural areas.

But the issue, as it turned out, is not the electronic logging device, it’s the hours of service. So we are actually looking at that as well on a bipartisan basis, and we hope to come out with some conclusions on that. But, again, we’re very much aware of the hardship that these inflexible rules have placed on rural and agricultural interests.”

In August of 2018, the FMCSA asked for public comment on HOS regulation reform and received thousands of responses from the trucking industry as well as the public at large.

Specifically, they asked the public to weigh in on four specific areas of HOS regulation:

  • 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 two 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 FMCSA also asked the public for comment on two petitions:

  • An Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) petition that would allow drivers to take up to a three hour off-duty rest break during a 14 hour day period. OOIDA’s petition also asks for the elimination of the 30 minute rest break.
  • A Trucker Nation petition that would “revise the prohibition against driving after the 14th hour of the beginning of the work shift, allow drivers to use multiple off-duty periods of three hours or longer in lieu of having 10 consecutive hours off-duty, and eliminate the 30-minute rest break requirement.”
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