Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

FMCSA solicits public comments on Hours of Service regulations

Tom Cuthbertson
VP of Regulatory Compliance

Updated 9/19: The FMCSA is extending the comment deadline from Monday, September 24, 2018 to Wednesday, October 10, 2018.

Last week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to gather comments from the public about potential changes to Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. Carriers are encouraged to submit comments and need to do so by September 24, 2018. 

The purpose of the request for comments is to gather as much data as possible from organizations. There are four specific areas where the FMCSA seeks comment:

  1. Short-haul operations
    The first area considered for revision has to do with expanding the 100-air-mile short-haul exemption from 12 hours on duty to 14 hours on duty. The reason for the consideration is to be consistent with rules for long-haul truck drivers.

    To meet the FMCSA definition for short haul, drivers must start and return to the same location within 12 hours of duty time; drive no more than 11 hours; have 10 consecutive hours off in between shifts; maintain time clock functions; and not exceed a 100-mile radius from their starting locations. 

    Carriers that submit comments should consider whether they have any data showing that a move from 12 to 14 hours would affect safety performance. The FMCSA is also looking for comments about how this change would impact operations. 

  2. 30-minute breaks
    The next area pertains to revising the mandatory 30-minute break for drivers after eight hours of drive time. The current rule is more complicated when it comes to the short-haul exemption. If a driver exceeds the 100-mile radius from his or her starting location within the first eight hours, he or she must take the 30-minute break after consecutive duty time of eight hours. If a driver works beyond the allowed 12 hours and needs a break prior to ending the day, he or she can take it as long as it is noted why a stop wasn’t made by the eighth hour. How does the 30-minute rest break impact the efficiency of operations from a driver’s or a carrier’s perspective? How would your suggestions impact the costs and benefits of the 30- minute break?

    When submitting comments, carriers should consider their own operations and whether drivers would be able to get enough rest breaks without the rule. Carriers are encouraged to submit suggestions on other ways to give drivers flexibility instead of the mandatory 30-minute rest break.

  3. Adverse weather 
    If a driver encounters unpredicted adverse weather conditions, such as snow, sleet, or fog, drivers may continue driving as active duty for up to two hours until they are able to reach the intended location of a safe location to stop. If drivers are beyond their regulated hours, they can continue driving to get to secure locations, but to avoid penalties, they must note why they are using the exemption.

    Extending the 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when encountering adverse driving conditions is under consideration.

    Carriers should comment, noting how frequently their drivers use the exception and whether they believe there is enough flexibility. If carriers can speak to the safety impact of this, they are encouraged to do so.

  4. Split-sleeper berth
    The Sleeper Berth Provision states that drivers using sleeper berths must use one 10-hour period in the sleeper berth or eight and two hours. Those consecutive hours can be spent in the sleeper berth, off-duty, or a combination of both. The driver cannot go on-duty in any of those ten hours of off-duty rest.

    The FMCSA announced a potential, more flexible sleeper berth pilot program. The goal of the pilot program is to see if the split-sleeper berth time affects driver safety or fatigue. Beyond the information that will be collected in the pilot program, do you have any information that would support changing the current requirements? Are there alternatives that would make the sleeper berth options more effective or less costly? How often do you use the sleeper berth option currently; how would this change with your suggested regulatory alternatives? What cost impacts and safety benefits would result from different split sleeper berth options? Carriers may want to submit comments addressing whether this flexibility could assist in shipper delays and promote safety for the driver to sleep when needed.

    Carriers are encouraged to submit comments on the split-sleeper berth provision, noting how often their drivers use the sleeper berth option, what impact the proposed change may have, and any alternatives that could make sleeper berth options more effective.

This is a good opportunity for fleets to weigh in on the proposed HOS changes. Make comments as quantitative as possible: examples and occurrences and operational dollars are good items to include.  Carriers can visit the Office of the Federal Register’s website for more information.