The Federal Motor Carrier Administration issued a proposed change to the truck driver hours of service regulations intended to create greater flexibility.
“This proposed rule seeks to enhance safety by giving America’s commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time,” declared Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao, when she announced the proposal.
Many fleet operators and truck drivers have argued that since the federal government mandated electronic logging devices on trucks, the hours regulations should be subject to fresh review and changed in a number of places.
The Department of Transportation estimates the proposed HOS changes will create $274 million in savings for the economy and American consumers.
FMCSA proposes to increase 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 seeks to modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one 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, FMCSA points out.
Also proposed is one off-duty break of 30 minutes and not more than three hours, pausing a driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift.
The proposal also would modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
Another proposal would change 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.
“In the 15 years since the last major revisions to the hours-of-service, we as an industry have learned a great deal about how these rules impact our drivers,” said Barry Pottle, president of Pottle’s Transportation and chairman of American Trucking Associations.
“The valuable experience and data we’ve gained over that time will make it easier to provide flexibility for drivers to get additional rest and find parking while keeping our highways safe.”
ATA President Chris Spear also complimented Chao and FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez and pledged the industry’s full participation in the public review and comment process for the proposed rule.
“ATA intends to fully review these proposed changes so we can shape a strong rule for our drivers, our industry and the motoring public,” Spear said.
Teamsters Union General President James Hoffa wasn’t quite so optimistic. “In an effort to increase so-called ‘flexibility’ for trucking companies, the FMCSA is abandoning safety and allowing drivers to push themselves to the limit even further.”
He noted that changes for short-haul truckers would extend their days from 12 to 14 hours on the job. “That means a longer and more exhausting workday for tens of thousands of American workers,” Hoffa asserted.
The Teamsters are also concerned about language changing the 30-minute rest break and the ability of drivers to press the pause button on their hours of service clock.
“A common-sense approach has finally been proposed by the federal government,” according to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
“Truckers have families and want to get home safely just like everyone else,” stressed OOIDA President Todd Spencer. “They are the most knowledgeable highway safety advocates and the agency’s proposal, overall, recognizes that fact.”
A week after the announcement Martinez urged truckers to participate in the rulemaking during a speech he gave at the ATA National Truck Driving Championships held in Pittsburgh.
“I hope that people will comment. Don’t assume this is a done deal,” Martinez said. “If you like it, please tell us you like it. If you like parts of it, tell us you like parts of it and what parts you don’t like. Be constructive in your criticism to help us create a final rule as quickly as possible.”
Specifically, he said FMCSA is looking for comments about the 30-minute rest break and the split sleeper berth, which were two key issues the agency had heard concerns about.
<h3>Canada Truckers Seek More ELDs</h3>
The Canadian Trucking Alliance has asked their country’s various provincial governments to adopt recently announced federal rules mandating third- party-certified electronic logging devices (ELDs).
Third-party certification policy means that U.S. truckers traveling into Canada would be required to have Canadian-certified ELDs onboard.
If a supplier of ELD equipment rejects the Canadian certification process, then any U.S. carrier using it would need to obtain equipment from another supplier who does.
“Now is the time to streamline the compliance verification methods required by industry and monitored by the professional enforcement teams across the county in the interest of elevating public safety and reducing red tape,” the association told provincial officials.
“It is critical to transition the federally- and provincially-regulated fleets from their existing paper-based compliance regime to an electronic one, based on each jurisdiction’s existing application and operational processes,” CTA said.
Canada’s federal-level ELD mandate was announced June 13 and is scheduled to go into effect in June 2021. However, it only covers that country’s truckers who are regulated by the federal government and not those who cross the border and enter a single province from the United States.
CTA argues that the addition of an intra-province ELD mandate will both promote safety and reduce red tape for industry and government.
“Why should there be two methods for hours-of- service monitoring (ELD and paper) when modern, third-party-compliant ELDs are far superior?” said CTA president Stephen Laskowski.
“Asking government officials to enforce an outdated, time consuming, unsafe paper system – in concert with a proven, robust electronic method seems to make little sense from both a safety and administrative cost perspective.”