WASHINGTON – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Tuesday said that it is seeking public comment on revising four specific areas of current Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, which limit the operating hours of commercial truck drivers.
The upcoming Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service-advanced-notice-proposed-rulemaking, which will be published in the Federal Register, responds to widespread Congressional, industry, and citizen concerns and seeks feedback from the public to determine if HOS revisions may alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers while maintaining safety on the nation’s highways and roads. The comment period will be open for 30 days, stated FMCSA in a news release announcing the ANPRM.
The ANPRM goes out in the form of questions taken from listening sessions with stakeholders, including petitions asking for more HOS flexibility by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), the United States Transportation Alliance, the United Drivers Alliance and others, with Raymond P. Martinez, FMCSA’s sixth administrator, commenting that the ANPRM “basically opens the floor” to these groups and other trucking stakeholders to comment on how they want to see the HOS changed.
He noted that HOS changes haven’t been addressed for the last 15 years and that many things have changed in the way commerce operates during that period, including more congestion and more vehicles on the road, along with “real-time delivery” created by internet shoppers who order something in the morning and want it delivered by that afternoon.
The four specific areas under consideration for revision are:
- 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.
In addition, the ANPRM seeks public comment and relevant data on two recently submitted petitions requesting regulatory relief from HOS rules (1) pertaining to the 14-hour on-duty limitation (filed by OOIDA) and (2) pertaining to the 10-hour off-duty requirement (filed by TruckerNation).
“So this is a good opportunity to step forward if you have thoughts on these specific points or something that might be related to them,” Martinez told members of the trucking news media during a briefing on the ANPRM. “We keep hearing flexibility, flexibility, flexibility. Of course, we’re a safety agency so we look at everything through the lens of safety,” he added.
Now that ELDs are in place and generating information, “that allows us to pivot and say, now where is the flexibility in that [HOS regulation],” Martinez said. FMCSA is trying to be “agile” in listening to stakeholders and then acting on what they’ve heard in the past several months. The ANPRM is a “step forward” he said, in seeing what HOS changes should look like.
But he cautioned that the kind of feedback that the agency receives on the ANPRM will determine on how FMCSA will move forward, or not, with any HOS changes.
Joe DeLorenzo, director of FMCSA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance, added that the ANPRM is “deliberately very nonspecific” because the agency wants it to “provide a framework for the kind of information that we would need in order to make a decision going forward.”
Earlier this year, the congressionally mandated electronic logging device (ELD) rule, which required most FMCSA-regulated motor carriers to convert their records from paper to an electronic format, became effective. While compliance with the ELD rule has reached nearly 99 percent across the trucking industry (according to FMCSA), it has also brought focus to HOS regulations, especially with regard to certain regulations having a significant impact on agriculture and other sectors of trucking.
Additional information on the ANPRM, including how to submit comments to the Federal Register docket, is available at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service-advanced-notice-proposed-rulemaking
The first in a series of public listening sessions on the ANPRM will take place Friday, August 24, 2018, in Dallas, Texas, at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time during the Great American Trucking Show being held there. Further information is available at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/event/public-listening-session-hours-service.
There will also be a listening session September 14 in Washington, D.C. at the DOT headquarters and two additional sessions “geographically dispersed across the United States,” Martinez said, adding that those locations have yet to be determined.
Information on current HOS regulations is available at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service/summary-hours-service-regulations.
Information on electronic logging devices (ELDs) carried on-board long-haul trucks and used by commercial vehicle enforcement officers to check compliance with HOS regulations is available at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/hours-service/elds/electronic-logging-devices.