The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has handed down a decision on a trucker’s unusual request for a personal exemption from federal Hours of Service (HOS) rules.
In a document to be published in the Federal Register on November 9, 2022, the FMCSA announces its decision to deny the application from Leland Schmitt, Jr., requesting an exemption from five provisions of the federal HOS regulations for himself only.
In June 2022, the FMCSA published the exemption request from Schmitt, who is an owner-operator with 30 years of experience driving commercial vehicles.
Schmitt’s main argument against federal HOS rules — and the mandatory 10 hour off-duty break in particular — is that they “go against” his natural sleep patterns.
From the FMCSA notice:
“The applicant believes that his level of safety under this exemption would be better than he could achieve by complying with the HOS regulations because he will receive the proper rest needed when he needs it. He points to his excellent driving record and 30 years of safe driving experience. He states that he has not been involved in any crashes and that he has accumulated over three million safe driving miles during his truck driving career. He further indicates that he is not requesting an exemption from the required 11 hours of total driving time, which will be properly recorded by the electronic logging device (ELD) in the vehicle. In his application for exemption, he also cites a sleep study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which he states finds ‘no impact from more night sleep, though naps help.‘”
The FMCSA received 651 public comments on Schmitt’s request. Of those, 350 were in favor, 68 were opposed, and 229 were not either for or against the request. Many of the commenters argued that trucking is over regulated. Others told the FMCSA that the agency should not allow an exemption of this nature for a single driver. Still other commenters said that if the exemption was granted, it should apply to all CMV drivers.
The FMCSA said that they opted to ultimately deny the petition because “Mr. Schmitt failed to establish that he would maintain a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level achieved without the exemption.”
The agency also agreed with commenters who argued that “if it exempts one individual from the HOS regulations, it could open the door for a huge number of similar exemption requests.”
Trucker Ronnie Brown III also made a similar request of the FMCSA over the summer. Brown asked the FMCSA for regulatory relief for himself only from both HOS regulations and electronic logging device (ELD) rules.