On Tuesday, September 8, I hosted a webinar on upcoming Hours of Service (HOS) changes alongside Kerri Wirachowsky, the director of the Roadside Inspection Program at the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). This webinar was an expansion on the June webinar I hosted on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Final Rule on HOS regulatory changes. In this week's webinar, Kerri and I aimed to help our attendees understand which regulations are changing, which regulations will be limited, and what you should be aware of to avoid roadside problems.
Similar to the aftermath of that webinar, I want to answer your top questions on these changes to help you and your teams ease into the new compliance process as efficiently as possible:
Question 1: What is the purpose of the Final Rule?
The Final Rule is granting flexibilities that are intended to allow drivers to shift their drive and work time to mitigate the impacts of certain variables, such as weather, traffic, and detention times. It is also intended to help drivers take breaks without penalty when they need their rest.
Question 2: Will driving time increase?
No. None of the provisions in the Final Rule will increase the maximum amount of driving time. Drivers are still only allotted a maximum of 11 hours.
Question 3: What is changing with the short-haul exception?
The new short-haul exception will allow a driver to extend their drive-time from 12 to 14 hours in the event of an adverse driving declaration. It also raises the maximum radius from 100 air miles to 150.
The change for short-haul does not allow any more than 11 hours of driving, but it will enable a driver to complete those levels of driving from 12 to 14 hours.
Question 4: What is changing for regulations on adverse conditions?
If a driver declares adverse driving conditions, they are currently able to drive 13 hours instead of 11. The Final Rule is extending the window from 14 to 16 hours. So, drivers can now drive up to 13 hours within a 16-hour window.
This amendment does not cover specific circumstances, including detention times, breakdowns, or enforcement inspections. It also does not cover road construction or detours unless the driver could not have reasonably known of the impediments before driving (like in cases of accidents, for example).
Question 5: What is the 30-minute interruption of driving time requirement?
The Final Rule is changing the classification of a 'rest break' to an 'interruption of driving time.'
The 30-minute interruption of driving time requires drivers of property-carrying commercial vehicles to take a 30-minute, non-driving interruption after 8 hours of driving time (not on-duty time).
Question 6: Have split sleeper-berth requirements been modified?
Yes. The FMCSA has modified the split sleeper-berth requirements to now allow drivers to take their required 10 hours off-duty in two periods, provided one off-duty period is at least two hours long, and the other involves at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth. When appropriately paired, neither period will count against the maximum 14-hour driving window.
Question 7: What regulations are not changing?
Short-haul drivers will still be required to revert to logs, and they may be required to take a 30-minute interruption of driving time if they drive beyond the maximum allowed radius or are not released from duty within the time limitation.
While the 30-minute interruption of driving time can be taken in any combination of non-driving duty statuses, the entire 30 minutes must still be taken at one time.
Additionally, none of the revisions relieve motor carriers and drivers of the explicit prohibitions against operating commercial motor vehicles while ill or fatigued or coercing drivers to violate federal safety laws.
Question 8: How will the Final Rule impact enforcement activity?
As Kerri stated in the webinar, there won't be much change on the enforcement side. Enforcement officials will still use the eRODS system to determine if drivers are compliant. That is why drivers must know how to go to the transfer section of the ELD to transfer their eRODS files. It is always the responsibility of the driver to transfer these.
Drivers should have immediate access to the following for their ensured benefit (any or all can be electronic):
- Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Driver Manual
- Malfunction and eRODS Transfer Instruction cab cards
- Eight days of blank logs available
Question 9: How will the FMCSA implement these changes?
The FMCSA will update the eRODS software to incorporate the HOS changes and identify areas for enforcement to review. They will also educate and train enforcement on the changes.
Question 10: If a driving time violation is triggered after the first off-duty period of a split, does the second split still work the same way?
If a driver is caught driving while in violation, that driver will be placed out of service. However, if a violation occurs prior to the driver completing a successful split pairing, the violation still exists, but it will not prevent the successful reset.
Question 11: What changes should drivers expect with Omnitracs solutions?
This will vary by product, and you should review product release notes and work with your Omnitracs representative to further understand how these regulations will impact your specific applications.
Question 12: Can you now be off-duty while waiting to be loaded or unloaded? There was previously an on-duty status that a driver could not use to extend their day under the split sleeper-berth.
The on-duty regulations defined in 49 CFR 395.2 have not changed. A driver's responsibilities for a vehicle being loaded or unloaded will vary by operation.
Question 13: How often can you apply the exemption on adverse conditions per week?
There is no limit to the number of times adverse conditions may be used; however, under no circumstance may a driver violate the 60 hours/7 days or 70 hours/ 8 days rules.
Question 14: Does the short-haul exception apply to interstate or intrastate?
Most states adopt federal regulations and then modify them for intrastate purposes. Unless the state in question has modified the federal short-haul regulations, then they should be the same.
Question 15: If drivers are in a team operation and one driver has a full clock, can the other driver still take advantage of the adverse condition exception?
There is no limitation in the regulations for the use of adverse conditions that would preclude a driver from declaring simply because a co-driver has available hours to drive. A co-driver would have no bearing on the issue.
Question 16: Does the adverse conditions exemption only apply if the driver is starting and stopping from the same location that day?
No. The location where the driver stops or starts has no bearing on the ability to declare adverse conditions.
Question 17: For the 30-minute interruption of driving time, does the driver have to note a remark of a break?
No, there is no requirement for a remark, note, or annotation to identify the interruption as driving time. It just has to be a non-driving duty status and be at least 30 consecutive minutes.
Question 18: Are the eight times in a rolling 30-day period still allowed to exceed the short-haul criteria?
As long as a driver is not required to maintain RODS for more than eight days in a "rolling" 30-day period, they are exempt from the requirement to use an ELD to maintain RODS. Therefore, if they are exempt, they may keep paper RODS when needed.
Question 19: When will Omnitracs units be updated to reflect the new rules?
The changes that will be implemented will be available for drivers to use beginning September 29, 2020.
Question 20: When will these changes be implemented?
The Final Rule will go into effect at 12:01 AM ET on September 29, 2020. That is 9:01 PM PT and 11:01 PM CT on September 28, 2020. The changes will go into effect based on a driver's location and not based on a home terminal time zone.
Commercial drivers cannot use these changes any earlier. For example, a 7-hour sleeper-berth completed on September 28 cannot be paired with a 3-hour off-duty period on September 29 to complete a split.