If you have been following trucker news for a while now, you almost certainly have heard that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has sent paperwork regarding changing Hours of Service regulations to the White House. Here is the truth: nobody aside from people within the FMCSA actually knows what is in the reform proposal.
There is a famous quote by Nancy Pelosi that “we have to pass the bill so you can see what’s in it.” The line created a stir amongst Republicans and others who opposed Nancy Pelosi at the time that she was trying to be secretive about future laws that could impact Americans.
Regardless if this is what she meant or if she meant what her supporters state, that Pelosi’s meaning was that the actions listed in the bill being discussed will speak louder volumes than the words on the paper, the HOS reform being sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is a straight example of the former interpretation of the quote: we the people do not get the privilege of knowing what the Hours of Service Reform entails until it becomes law.
This policy of keeping future HOS policy under wraps strongly contradicts the FMCSA’s usual course of action: usually the American public gets to read and comment about actions, such as this example of extending the compliance date for the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.
We will write about what the likely outcome of the HOS reform is, but anyone who is not from the FMCSA or OMB who says they know what is in the reform is either a master of espionage or is lying.
What Could be in the Reform
We at TopMark Funding are not masters of espionage nor liars, so the best we can do in this article is provide ideas about what might be in the reform that has been sent to the OMB.
“While I can’t go into the specifics of this final rule, 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.” Jim Mullen, FMCSA’s Acting Administrator, has said.
In the past, the FMCSA has suggested proposing the following rule changes:
- More flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not-driving status, rather than off-duty.
- Modifying the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of at least two consecutive hours either off duty or in the sleeper berth.
- Allowing one off-duty break between 30 minutes and 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.
- Modifying the adverse driving conditions exception; extending the maximum window during which driving is permitted by up to two hours.
- Expanding the short-haul exception available for certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on‑duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.
All of these could be in the proposal, or none of them could be in there. Additionally, the White House might reject the reform proposal all together and nothing would change.
Only the people who are “in” on the reform proposal knows what is in it. For all we know, the reform could negatively impact truckers, saying that they now are limited to a 10-hour driving window and receive less driving miles and hours, reducing wages and revenues. While it is unlikely the HOS regulations would become tighter, it is still a possibility.
Only time will tell what the HOS reform proposal has in store for truckers. In this case in particular, they need to pass it for you to see what is in it.