Hours-of-service regulations for truckers are attracting attention again, with some dead set against any relaxation in the rules and others fighting to give truckers more flexibility.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association reports that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration now plans to publish a revised hours-of-service proposal by July 31, citing a reference in the Department of Transportation’s Significant Rulemaking Report for June.
From a news release published by OOIDA:
The notice of proposed rulemaking, which is promised to provide more flexibility within the hours-of-service regulations, was sent to the Office of Management and Budget on March 28. As of Monday, July 1, the proposed rule was still listed as “pending review.”
Truck drivers are eager to see the proposal as there has been a growing push for hours-of-service reform since the electronic logging mandate went into effect in December 2017.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association helped start the discussion on hours-of-service reform when the trucking group submitted a petition to FMCSA in February 2018. The petition asked for regulations to allow drivers to take a rest break once per 14-hour duty period for three consecutive hours if the driver is off-duty. OOIDA also asked the agency to eliminate the 30-minute rest break requirement.
FMCSA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking about the hours of service in August 2018. The agency hosted five public listening sessions on the topic and received more than 5,200 comments. Many of the comments from truck drivers said the current regulations are too rigid and can force drivers to travel in unsafe weather conditions or extreme traffic.
While no definitive details of the revised hours of service have been revealed, U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao and FMCSA Administrator Raymond Martinez have each promised an increase in flexibility.
After the notice of proposed rulemaking is published, there will be a comment period. The projected date for the end of the comment period is Sept. 16. However, July 31 and Sept. 16 are only projections.
The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a group supported by insurance and consumer interests,
is urging Congress to reject efforts to diminish the rule requiring the use of ELDs and to further erode HOS regulations.
From the group’s website:
Driver fatigue is a well-known CMV safety problem. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has repeatedly cited fatigue as a major contributor to truck crashes and included reducing fatigue related crashes in every edition of its Most Wanted List of safety changes since 2016. Currently, truck drivers are permitted to drive up to 11 hours per day for a total of 77 hours per week. These grueling hours can lead to cumulative fatigue and devastating safety consequences. Self-reports of fatigue, which almost always underestimate the problem, document that fatigue in truck operations is a significant issue.
In a 2006 driver survey prepared for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), “65 percent [of drivers] reported that they often or sometimes felt drowsy while driving” and almost half (47.6 percent) of drivers said they had fallen asleep while driving in the previous year. Yet, certain segments of the trucking industry continue to push for further weakening of hours-of-service (HOS) safety regulations.
One of the most effective tools to help prevent driver fatigue is the use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) to record drivers’ HOS. Paper logs are frequently referred to as “comic books” throughout the industry because of the ease in falsifying actual driving and work time. The FMCSA estimates that requiring ELDs will save 26 lives, prevent over 500 injuries and avoid over 1,800 crashes annually. In addition, the U.S. DOT estimates the annualized net benefits of adopting ELDs to be over $1 billion. Congress, recognizing the benefits of ELDs, mandated their use as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act. In 2015, the FMCSA delivered on this Congressional directive and issued a rule requiring the use of ELDs which went into effect in December 2017. FMCSA reports that since the implementation of the ELD rule, the percentage of driver inspections with an HOS violation has decreased 39 percent. Despite this compelling evidence, broad support and an established final rule, a vocal minority continues to object to the use of this technology and is filing meritless applications for exemptions from compliance with the federal law with the FMCSA in a concerted effort to undermine the regulation.
A barrage of legislative and regulatory proposals also continue to target ELDs and HOS rules. For instance, last year FMCSA issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that would dismantle several important safeguards in the HOS regulations including the 30-minute rest break provision. Advocates is especially concerned that the FMCSA also eliminated enhanced driver protections for meal and rest breaks by issuing a decision preempting California law. This egregious agency overstep should be reversed. Further, special interests continue to push Congress to expand working and driving limits or create carve-outs under the guise of “flexibility.” These are nothing more than attempts to force drivers to work even more demanding schedules.
TK: With the new proposed rule reportedly only weeks away, we’ll soon see the direction FMSCA is taking on relaxing hours of service regulations — and the blowback that the administration will surely see from highway safety groups and some members of Congress.