FMCSA administrator discusses proposed HoS changes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Proposed changes to the U.S. hours-of-service rules address the two most frequently-cited pain points for drivers and give them greater flexibility in managing their workdays. That was the message from Ray Martinez, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) administrator, who expanded on today’s HoS announcement in an online media briefing. He said the agency has worked closely with industry stakeholders – including drivers, through five listening sessions – over the past year-and a-half to better understand how the HoS rules can be improved without compromising safety.

FMCSA administrator, Ray Martinez.

Changes have been proposed to five elements of the HoS rules. The 30-minute mandatory rest break within eight consecutive hours of driving would be changed to allow drivers to satisfy it using an on-duty break, allowing them to take advantage of stops they are already making to fuel up or check their loads, Martinez explained. Currently, this time has to be logged as off-duty and drivers can’t count the time they spend on the above tasks.

Another frequently cited pain point for drivers was the inflexibility of the sleeper berth time requirements. The proposal will allow it to be split into seven/three- or eight/two-hour windows. Martinez said this gives drivers greater flexibility in managing their routes and avoiding congestion.

Joe DeLorenzo, director of the FMCSA’s Office of Enforcement, said drivers felt they were racing the clock during their 14-hour working window. “They are going to drive through rush hour traffic because the clock is going to keep rolling,” he explained. “This provision will allow drivers to take three hours off to allow rush hour traffic to clear, and be more productive and they will have gotten some rest during that period of time.” Other proposed changes include allowing drivers to extend their driving day by two hours in adverse conditions, extending the shorthaul exception available to certain commercial drivers by two hours or 50 miles, and allowing an off-duty break of 30 to 180 minutes that pauses the driver’s 14-hour work window, provided the shift is followed by 10 consecutive hours off-duty.

Asked if the agency is expecting much opposition to the proposed rules, Martinez said they are a “common sense approach to crafting an HoS regime that’s more flexible for truck drivers, and promote safety for all who share the road.” However, once the proposed rules are published in the Federal Register on Monday, there will be a 45-day comment period. Martinez urges interested parties to submit their comments as soon as possible, so the rulemaking process can continue in an expedited fashion.

“We hope people will jump on this and submit comments as quickly as possible so we can begin the evaluation process and move with all due speed to get to a final rule as quickly as possible so that this flexibility and relief that ahs been clearly articulated can be provided,” Martinez said. He was unable to predict a date for implementation of the new rules. More than 5,000 comments were received and evaluated during the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) process, Martinez noted.

This input from industry stakeholders and drivers was combined with available data to arrive at the proposed rule changes.

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