This past August, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) opened up comments on its advanced notice of proposed regulations regarding Hours of Service regulations for commercial vehicles. The agency is seeking to make a handful of changes in accordance to an executive order issued in early 2017, the first of which directs federal agencies, such as the FMCSA, to “manage the costs associated with the governmental imposition of private expenditures required to comply with Federal regulations.”
A second order was issued later to “alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on the American people.” In response to this, the FMCSA is looking to address elements of its Hours of Service regulations. The agency also requested feedback on two petitions filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and TruckerNation.org (TruckerNation). Comments for these proposed changes were open from August 23rd to September 24th.
FMCSA is considering the following revisions to their regulations :
- Expanding the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption to 14 hours on duty from 12 hours on duty, to be consistent with rules for long-haul truck drivers.
- Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions.
- Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after eight hours of continuous driving.
- Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks equipped with sleeper berth compartments.
Convenience versus safety potentially at stake
The OOIDA is petitioning the agency to allow commercial vehicle drivers to have one rest break – for up to three consecutive hours – during every 14-hour on-duty period. This change would extend the work shift to 17 hours after the start of the shift, eliminate the required 30-minute rest period, but the required 10-hour break in between shifts would remain.
TruckerNation is petitioning for different changes, but they also advocate for the elimination of the required 30-minute break. Their proposal includes allowing drivers multiple off-duty periods of at least three hours in place of taking 10 consecutive hours off duty. They also propose to remove the prohibition against driving after the 14th hour. As an alternative, the organization requested that the Agency prohibit driving after the driver has accumulated 14-hours of on-duty time.
While making the lives of truckers easier can be of benefit to the industry, the FMCSA should not lose sight of the original purpose of these regulations. Safety should remain the number one priority when revising these laws to prevent an increase in fatigued driving and the resulting accidents. Truck driver fatigue puts everyone on the road at risk and often results in serious accidents caused by tired truck drivers.