Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

The FMCSA has released a Final Rule on Hours of Service — here’s what you need to know

Michael Ahart
Michael Ahart
Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

Update: On Wednesday, May 20, I sat down with Red Eye Radio to discuss the Final Rule in more detail. You can listen to my conversation with them here.

On May 14, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a Final Rule updating current Hours of Service (HOS) regulations in an effort to increase safety for all drivers across the U.S. while workings simultaneously to improve commercial driver flexibility and satisfaction. This announcement comes just one day after the FMCSA released an extension to the HOS exemption released in an Emergency Declaration this past March.

With regard to the Final Rule, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao had this to say: “America’s truckers are doing a heroic job keeping our supply chains open during this unprecedented time, and these rules will provide them greater flexibility to keep America moving.”

The Final Rule is best outlined by comparing and contrasting the modifications to these 4 previous rules:

  1. CMV short-haul exception: The previous rule stated that drivers could not be on duty more than 12 hours and could not drive past a 100 air-mile radius. The new HOS rule extends the maximum duty period allowed under the short-haul exception to 14 hours and 150 air miles.  Drive time remains unchanged and limited to 11 hours.
  2. Adverse driving conditions: The past HOS rule stated that a driver may not drive more than 2 additional hours beyond the maximum time allotted, and it did not extend the maximum driving window. The new rule allows a driver to extend the maximum driving window by up to 2 hours during adverse driving conditions.
  3. 30-minute break: The previous rule started that a driver must take a minimum 30-minute, off-duty break before driving if more than 8 consecutive hours have passed since the last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes. The new rule requires a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving time, instead of on-duty time, and it allows on-duty not driving periods to qualify as breaks.
  4. Split-sleeper berth: The past HOS rule started that a driver can use the sleeper berth for an 8/2 split to satisfy the 10-hour rest period requirement — which is 8 hours of rest in the berth that does not count against the 14-hour limit, and 2 additional hours of off-duty time (in or outside of the berth) that does count against the 14-hour driving window. The new rule modifies this exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 split or a 7/3 split, with neither period counting against the driver’s 14-hour driving window.

It’s important to note that the new rule changes do not increase driving time and will continue to prevent commercial motor vehicle operators from driving more than 8 consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute break. Finally, the Final Rule will have an implementation date of 120 days after publication in the Federal Register (which is expected next week or so).

While these changes to the Hours of Service rules do not impact the ELD regulations, Omnitracs is committed to making the appropriate enhancements to our ELD platforms to allow motor carriers and drivers to monitor compliance with the HOS regulations.

I and everyone at Omnitracs value the incredible work everyone in our industry has put in during this pandemic and beyond it. Rest assured that I will continue providing any necessary communication on any additional regulatory updates as soon as possible.