The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced the publication of its long-awaited final rule on changes to the hours of service (HOS) regulations.
FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen broke down the revisions to the HOS rules during a press conference call on May 14. The revisions, Mullen said, were the result of 8,000 public comments the agency received and were made to add “needed flexibility in the lives of America’s truckers.”
The final rule includes the following four revisions to the HOS rules:
- FMCSA will provide added flexibility for the 30-minute break after eight hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time) and allows an on-duty/not driving period to qualify as the required break.
- The agency will modify the sleeper berth exception to allow drivers to split their 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement into two separate periods—an eight and two hour split or a seven and three hour split (7/3 splits)—with neither periods counting against the driver’s 14-hour driving window.
- FMCSA will modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending the maximum window during which driving is permitted by two hours. The current rule already permits two hours of additional driving time on the 11-hour clock, so this expands the 14-hour clock by two hours as well.
- Finally, the agency will change the short-haul exemption available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the driver’s 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.
The final rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register in the coming week and will be effective 120 days after publication.
“Each of these changes were based on the feedback we received from the thousands of public comments we received during the rulemaking and through the listening sessions we held around the country,” explained Mullen. “It is also important to note that this new rule will not increase driving time and will continue to prevent CMV [commercial motor vehicle] operators from driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute change in duty status.”
During the call, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao highlighted what she called the “tremendous contributions” of America’s truck drivers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.
“Truck drivers have been working around the clock to deliver packages to American families, making sure our food shelves are fully stocked and delivering food and products to businesses and making sure that needed medical supplies and equipment go to where they need to go. So truckers are really American heroes, especially at a time like this,” she said.
Over the course of two years, the U.S. Department of Transportation has been updating HOS rules that govern the driving times and schedules of commercial drivers. According to Chao, the final revisions “provide much-needed flexibility for drivers while maintaining safety on the roads.”
“This new final rule will improve safety for all motorists and increase flexibility for America’s truckers,” she said. “This has been a deliberate and a careful process provided by the direct feedback we’ve had from truckers, carriers, safety advocates, law enforcement, and concerned residents and citizens.”
“Each of these areas of reform are designed to add flexibility and regulatory savings for the motor carrier industry, which is critical for our nation’s economic recovery,” she added, noting that these rules do not increase overall driving time.
Mullen added that the updates provided in the new rule will assist the motor carrier industry by providing regulatory savings and efficiency during the nation’s time of need.
“In the past few months, we have seen the heroic actions that truckers have done to keep up our supply chain, keep it open, and ensure that American families, businesses and hospitals are able to make the deliveries and receive the products that we all need,” he said. “Their efforts have been inspirational and should make all Americans proud.”
The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) applauded FMCSA for “taking an active role in receiving input from all stakeholders to craft flexible regulations for the industry while still improving safety, and for also expediting this rule change to provide the maximum benefit.”
“TCA is very pleased to see that sleeper berth flexibility has been increased to allow for 7/3 splits and that the previously required 30-minute rest break will now only be required after eight consecutive hours of driving, with more options for how the break can be taken,” the association stated. “TCA also notes that revisions to the short-haul exemption and the adverse weather conditions rule are present in the final rule.”