Washington — A final rule the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration claims would add flexibility to hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers has been sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.
FMCSA submitted the rule March 2. Addressing attendees of the Truckload Carriers Association Conference the next day in Kissimmee, FL, acting agency administrator Jim Mullen said that although he could not go into the rule’s specifics, “please know that the goal of this process from the beginning has been to improve safety for all motorists and to increase flexibility for commercial drivers.”
On the heels of multiple delays, FMCSA published a proposed rule in the Aug. 22 Federal Register and set an initial comment deadline of Oct. 7. The comment period later was extended to Oct. 21.
FMCSA weighed nearly 8,200 comments on the proposed rule. Among the highlights of the proposal:
- Expanding the current 100-air mile short haul exemption to 14 hours on duty from 12 hours on duty, to be consistent for rules with 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.
- Allowing covered commercial motor vehicle operators one rest break – for up to three consecutive hours – during every 14-hour on-duty period.
- Allowing covered CMV operators to use multiple off-duty periods of at least three hours in place of taking 10 consecutive hours off duty.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and TruckerNation.org, both longtime proponents of HOS reform, support the changes.
“We applaud the agency for submitting the final rule to OMB so quickly,” OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer said in an article published March 3 in the association’s Land Line magazine. “As FMCSA continues to move forward with hours-of-service reform, we are optimistic the final product will create meaningful reform that provides drivers with more flexibility and control over their schedules. If FMCSA gets it right, we’re confident most drivers will be happy with the changes.”
In a March 3 video posted on Facebook, TruckerNation.org spokesperson Andrea Marks says, “It cannot be overstated enough how proud we are of the trucking industry that we are here.”
Moments later, Marks reminds viewers that, their optimism notwithstanding, the federal rulemaking process is neither “intuitive” nor “one that happens fast.”
Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance Executive Director Collin Mooney told Safety+Health that his organization expects the final rule to be published in May or June.
“If it’s done right, it could be a win-win,” Mooney said. “If there’s too much flexibility, well then, safety can be compromised.”
One concern Mooney cited was the possible effects on driving time in the event the adverse driving conditions and mandatory rest break provisions were compounded.
“Seventeen, 18, 19 hours is just going to be way too long for anybody, so we wanted to see that tightened up a little bit,” Mooney said.
OMB listed the status of the rule as pending review at press time.