FMCSA announces second listening session on HOS proposal

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Just hours before the start of Labor Day weekend, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that a second listening session on its hours of service (HOS) proposals will be held on September 17, 2019. The listening session will provide interested parties with an opportunity to share their views, concerns and feedback on the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published by the FMCSA on Aug 14. The proposed updates offer five key modifications to the existing HOS rules, which include:

  1. Changing the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers, 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.
  2. Modifying the adverse driving conditions exception by two hours, extending the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
  3. Increasing 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. 
  4. Modifying the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10-hours off duty into two periods: one period 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.)
  5. Allowing one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than three 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.

According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao, the proposed rule seeks to enhance safety by giving America’s commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time. FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez categorized the proposals as a commonsense approach to crafting hours of service regulations, adding that FMCSA wants drivers and all CMV stakeholders to share their thoughts and opinions on the proposed changes. In addition, the FMCSA estimates that the proposed rule will provide $274 million in savings for the U.S. economy and its consumers.

An initial, two-hour listening session on the proposed rule was held on August 23, at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas. According to a Transport Topics, several drivers suggested that the agency give them the ability to break up the mandatory 30-minute rest break, allow team drivers to use a 6-4 hours split or 5-5 split of their time in the sleeper berth and make it clear to motor carriers that drivers make the call on how they use their time in the sleeper berth. Currently, drivers are required to divide a 10-hour off-duty period in a sleeper berth into eight hours of rest and two hours of non-driving time.

The second listening session on potential changes to the agency’s hours-of-service rule will be conducted on September 17, at the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington. The session will be webcast live to allow remote participation.

Under current guidelines, comments on the FMCSA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking must be received on or before October 7. However, the American Trucking Associations and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) have asked the agency for a 30-day extension to the comment period. If the petition is granted, the comment period would be extended until November 21, 2019.

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