DOT proposes hours changes to provide flexibility

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration today announced a much-anticipated notice of a proposed rulemaking on hours-of-service regulations it says will give truck drivers more flexibility to make better driving decisions and improve highway safety.

Highlights of the proposals announced in a statement from the FMCSA and during a call with media this morning include:

  • Modifying the adverse driving conditions — bad weather, congestion — exception by extending by two hours the 14-hour on-duty period.
  • Instead of requiring the required 30-minute break in the first eight hours of on-duty time, the agency has proposed requiring the break within the first eight hours of drive time.
  • Changing the short-haul exception by lengthening the maximum on‑duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.
  • Modifying the sleeper-berth exception by allowing drivers the option of splitting their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of not less than three consecutive hours, either off duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.
  • Allowing one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than three hours, that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift.

In the call with media this morning FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said the proposed rulemaking is expected to be published in the Federal Register Monday, Aug. 19. Truckers, others in the trucking industry and the public will then have 45 days to make comments.

But, don’t expect any change in the regulations to happen overnight. A final rule will likely take several months — possibly more than a year — if not a year to be finalized and published in the Federal Register. A final rule likely wouldn’t take effect for at least another year, maybe longer.

“FMCSA wants drivers and all stakeholders to share their thoughts and opinions on the proposed changes to hours of service rules that we are putting forward today,” said FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez. He said the agency was proposing “reasonable, common sense changes” meant to provide drivers and carriers more flexibility while maintaining highway safety.

Truckers and others will have the opportunity to learn more about the proposed hours of service rule changes and other regulatory issues at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas next week. Martinez and others from the agency will be on hand for two Hot Topics sessions on the stage in Hall “A”. There is a session at 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22 and another at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24. You can register for free admission to GATS online.

You can see the Federal Register Notice, including how to submit comments here.