The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently released a notice of proposed changes to the hours of service (HOS) rules, which seek to update the existing regulations on the trucking industry. The currently HOS regulations place an 11-hour cap on driving time within a 14-hour shift.
The FMCSA asserts that these changes will provide the trucking industry with both flexibility and safety.
“This proposed rule seeks to enhance safety by giving America’s commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
What are the proposed changes to HOS?
The proposed HOS rule changes set forth by the FMCSA include five key revisions:
- 30-minute break rule: The FMCSA seeks to allow truckers to take 30-minute breaks without interruption, within eight hours of driving, while remaining on-duty. This revision is intended to promote both safety and flexibility.
- Changes to the 10-hour off-duty requirement: Truck drivers are currently required to take 10 hours of off-duty time in accordance with the HOS rules. The FMCSA, however, seeks to relax that period by allowing truckers to split it up into two periods. The first period would be seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth. The second period would be at least two hours either off-duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would have any impact on the 14-hour shift.
- Off-duty breaks: The FMCSA proposes to allow off-duty breaks of a minimum of 30 minutes, but no more than three hours, within a 14-hour driving period. Drivers must still take 10 hours of off-duty time between shifts.
- Increasing driving time: Under the current HOS rules, truckers may only drive a maximum of 11 hours in all conditions. The agency, however, seeks to allow two additional hours of driving time when driving conditions are adverse.
- Relaxing the short-haul exception: The short-haul exception allows drivers who report back to the same work location each day more on-duty driving time. The FMCSA proposes to extend on-duty time from 12-14 hours and the driving distance limit from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.
Is there any benefit to these changes?
According to the FMCSA, these changes may save the U.S. economy and American consumers roughly $274 million. In 2018, the agency allowed these proposed changes to be open for public debate. After authoring an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the agency has received more than 5,200 public comments — both favorable and unfavorable.
Advocates from the American Trucking Association believe these revisions to HOS will promote highway safety. On the other hand, opponents assert that changes to HOS will abandon safety and allow drivers to "push themselves to the limit even further."
Doing so may put truckers at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel — a common risk factor that led to stricter federal regulations in the first place. When truck drivers, and their companies, push the envelope, they put lives at risk.
That's why, if you were hurt or lost a loved one in a truck crash in Texas, it's critical that you consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The legal team at Chad Jones Law fights for the rights of injured motorists in greater Waco, College Station, Odessa, and Midland. Contact us online today to find out how we can help you.