On August 14, 2019, the FMCSA published a proposal for changes to the hours of service (HOS) rules, addressing issues that have had an adverse impact on fleet safety and productivity.

The proposed rule would not increase driving time and would continue to prevent commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators from driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute change in duty status.

As a precursor to the new proposed rules, the FMCSA requested public comments on HOS rules last year, and received more than 5,200 responses. Based on those comments, the FMCSA’s new proposal offers five key revisions to existing HOS rules.

The Agency proposes to:

  1. Increase safety and 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.
  2. Modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, and the other of not less than two consecutive hours, either off duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14hour driving window.
  3. Allow 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.
  4. Modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending the maximum window during which driving is permitted by two hours.
  5. Change the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening their maximum onduty period from 12 to 14 hours, and extend the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 to 150 air miles.

How will these new rules impact fleet carriers and drivers?

For fleet operators and drivers, there are a number of very positive changes to the new proposed HOS regulations. They include the following:

  • The rest break requirement will be based on driving time instead of on-duty time and can be achieved by either going off duty or on duty, not driving for a minimum of a half hour. This creates a significant amount of flexibility for drivers and allows them to keep working during their break if they desire to complete tasks like paperwork or fueling.
  • Drivers can take a rest break that would last from 30 minutes to three hours during their tour that would not count against the 14 hours on duty. This single rest break allows drivers to better accommodate their personal “time clocks” and not be penalized while passively waiting during loading periods. This should be particularly helpful for refrigerated and flatbed haulers that are challenged with shipper loading issues.
  • The new split logging regulations will provide additional flexibility for drivers as it will not count against the driver’s 14-hour driving window, which was the major issue with the 2003 split logging regulation. This rule will rely heavily on the use of ELDs as there will undoubtedly be considerable confusion over the application of the rule.
  • Fleet carriers that utilize the 100-air mile exemption from logging will be given additional flexibility with the movement to a 150-air mile exemption and an increase in the time limit from 12 to 14 hours for vehicles that weigh in excess of 26,000 lbs. This will put the exemption in line with the 14-hour-on-duty limit for drivers that are required to log.

The FMCSA is once again seeking public comment on these key revisions to the HOS changes. The public comment period closes September 28, 2019. Post your comment here.

Contact your HUB transportation specialist for more information on how you can implement these changes across your fleet, should the proposed rules become final.