It might be hard to remember with the coronavirus pandemic suspension (which was recently extended another month to mid-June) that the FMCSA has been planning reform to its hours-of-service regulations. Now the final rule has been published. Despite nobody outside of the FMCSA truly knowing what was going to be in it, it turned out to be mostly what the trucking industry expected.
Four New Changes
There are four major changes to HOS rules:
- 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.
- 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.
You can read the official final rule here.
Attentive readers may notice this means one change the FMCSA previously suggested did not make the cut, which was pausing a driver’s 14 hour window when he or she takes a half-hour to three hour break. When asked about this omission, FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen said that the split sleeper-berth change pretty much fulfills the same need.
Overall, the rule changes do not increase total driving time, but should make the trucker life more flexible for whatever the road may have, whether it is rush hour traffic or a hailstorm.
The changes will become official 120 days after publication in the Federal Register, which is set to happen next week. Depending on how long the COVID-19 suspension lasts, some truck drivers may have already dealt with the last of the old rules and should become acquainted with the new flexibility they will permanently have.
Article courtesy of TopMark Funding.