Hours of Service Rule Change Proposal: The FMCSA Describes New Rules to Increase Flexibility

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Fleet Fuel EconomyA major shake-up of Hours of Service rules is on the cards after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced its proposal to update the regulations. 

The long-awaited new hours of service rules would give carriers and drivers more flexibility in their operations. Among the major changes is the ability for drivers to split the 10-hour off-duty time into two separate periods and changes to the flexibility around the 30-minute rule.  

The proposal makes five suggestions allowing for:  

  1. An increase in flexibility and safety for the 30-minute break rule. It proposes to allow one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than 3 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. 
  2. Modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10- hours off duty into two periods: one period of at least 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of not less than 2 consecutive hours, either off duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14-hour driving window. 
  3. Increase the flexibility of the 30-minute break rule by requiring a break after eight hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time) and allowing the requirement to be satisfied by an on-duty break from driving, rather than requiring an off-duty break. 
  4. Modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted. 
  5. Lengthening the short-haul exception to the record of duty status (RODS) requirement available to certain commercial motor vehicle (CMV) 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 (115.08 statute miles) to 150 air miles (172.6 statute miles). 

The new rules announced by the FMCSA last week aim to increase flexibility for drivers behind the wheel and reap financial rewards up to $274 million per year for motor carriers and the US economy. The trucking industry employs more than seven million people and moves 70% of domestic freight.  

As well as flexibility, the FMCSA says there are a number of other non-quantifiable ways to increase efficiency and cost-savings within this new rule framework, such as increasing the options for drivers to respond to adverse driving conditions, and more options for drivers in the on-duty/off-duty requirement with the changes to the 30-minute break option. The agency says the flexibilities should allow drivers to mitigate against unpredictable variables like weather, traffic or detention times and to take breaks when they need rest.  

The proposal will not deliver any changes to driving time, but the FMCSA says it will increase the flexibility afforded to drivers. “We listened directly to the concerns of drivers for rules that are safer and have more flexibility – and we have acted. We encourage everyone to review and comment on this proposal,” said FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez. 

The proposal has been broadly welcomed in the industry. The American Trucking Association President and CEO Chris Spear says: “Secretary Chao and Administrator Martinez are to be commended for their commitment to an open and data-driven process to update the hours-of-service rules.” 

The owner-operator trucking representatives OOIDA is also supporting the proposal, Todd Spencer, President of OOIDA says: “there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution, but the proposed changes are a positive start since truckers don’t have any control over their schedules or traffic conditions.” 

This is the first significant change to Hours of Service rules since 2011. Read the Hours of Service rule change proposed by the FMCSA in full here. The agency will accept comments on the proposal for 45 days. You can submit comments in the official document here 

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Sue Rutherford

As the Vice President of Marketing for ORBCOMM, Ms. Rutherford is responsible for advancing the strategic direction of ORBCOMM marketing and its leading satellite/cellular products and services portfolio. She has more than two decades of global technology marketing expertise in the telecommunications, software, SaaS and industrial automation industries.

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