Last March, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that a reform of hours of service regulations was on the radar. According to the notice of proposed rulemaking published by the FMCSA on August 14, the amendments would provide greater flexibility for commercial drivers, without compromising safety.

The proposal highlights the following five revisions to the existing U.S. hours of service rules.

30-minute break

Tying the 30-minute break requirement to eight hours of driving time without an interruption for at least 30 minutes. The break could be satisfied with a non-driving period of either off-duty, in the sleeper berth or on-duty not driving. According to the FMCSA, this change would increase the on-duty/non-driving or allow drivers to reach their destination earlier.

Split-Sleeper Berth

Allow drivers to split their required 10 hours of off-duty into two periods: one period of at least 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and another period of at least two consecutive hours of either off-duty or in the sleeper berth. With this change, drivers could transfer one hour from the longest rest period to the shortest rest period. 

Split-Duty Provision

Allow one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than 3 hours, that would pause a driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided he takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift. This would extend the diving window by the duration of the break. The FMCSA points out that with this option, drivers could use this time to rest without the penalty of losing time in their driving window, avoid traffic by waiting in a parking lot and increase their VMT efficiency.

Adverse driving conditions

Extend the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a driver encounters adverse driving conditions. This would allow drivers more time to find a parking space during adverse driving conditions, and potentially decrease crash risks relative to current requirements, assuming drivers are now driving during adverse conditions.

Short-Haul exemption

Extend the maximum duty period from 12 hours to 14 hours, and the 100 air-mile radius to 150 air miles for drivers who qualify for this exemption. This would increase the number of drivers able to take advantage of this exemption.

The changes to the hours of service rules described above are not yet in effect. The FMCSA will collect public comments for a 45-day period. The Federal Register Notice, including how to submit comments is available here.

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