By Dave Osiecki, President of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting LLC and Safety Consultant to PeopleNet
On Tuesday, August 21, 2018, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) made a fairly large splash when it announced the start on its latest round of ‘rulemaking’ to consider changes to the hours-of-service (HOS) rules. If you’ve been in trucking for a while, you’re probably well aware of how many HOS rule changes have been considered and made just since the year 2000. With the ELD compliance date in the rear-view mirror, it was only a matter of time until we saw this Administration, and the new FMCSA leadership, try to put its stamp on these important safety and operational rules.
Before hyping FMCSA’s latest action too much, let me be clear: the action FMCSA just took toward changing the HOS rules is the very first step in a long journey—a journey that’s typically measured in years. This process will be no different but, as the old adage goes, every journey starts with the first step.
The ‘advance notice of proposed rulemaking’ just released is FMCSA’s way of telling the trucking industry and others who care (i.e., shippers, logistics providers, truck insurers, safety organizations, etc.) that it’s seriously considering changes to certain parts of the rules. In this case, four provisions have been teed up for potential change: (1) the mandatory ‘30-minute rest break’; (2) the ‘split sleeper berth’ provision; (3) the short-haul operations exception (i.e., the 100 air-mile radius exception); and (4) the “adverse driving conditions” exception. FMCSA poses questions, and solicits answers and feedback, on each of these provisions.
Some of FMCSA’s questions are:
On the ‘30-minute rest break’, FMCSA asks, (1) “If the 30-minute rest break rule did not exist, would driver obtain adequate rest breaks throughout a daily driving period to relieve fatigue?” and (2) “If a rest break is retained, should it be taken off-duty or on-duty while the driver is not driving?”;
On the ‘split sleeper berth’ provision, the Agency asks, (1) “Are there alternatives that would make the sleeper berth options more effective or less costly?”, and (2) “What cost impacts and safety benefits would result from different split sleeper berth options?”;
On the ‘short-haul operations’ exception, FMCSA suggests that alignment between the two current exceptions (the 100 and 150 air-mile radius exceptions) might need to occur and asks: (1) “Do you have any data to show that extending the 12-hour period for the short-haul exception to the RODS/ELD requirement to 14 hours would change the safety performance of carriers using the short-haul provision?”, and (2) “What would the incremental change be for your operations/business if the exemption was changed to 14 hours?”;
And, lastly, on the “adverse driving conditions” exception, the Agency wants to know, among other things: (1) “If there is adequate flexibility in the existing adverse driving conditions exception?”, and (2) “Should the adverse driving exception apply to the 14-hour work day window, not just the 11-hour driving limit?”
If you’d like to read all of FMCSA questions, along with other information from HOS-related petitions FMCSA has received this year from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and TruckerNation, the ‘advance notice’ is linked here.
In addition to posting and promoting the ‘advance notice’, FMCSA also announced a series of public listening sessions aimed at proactively gathering information and feedback from the industry and others on the four provisions targeted for change, and perhaps other parts of the HOS rules. The first listening session will take place on Friday, August 24, 2018 in Dallas, TX during the Great American Trucking Show. If you have a strong interest in these rules, and/or have information and a perspective you’d like to share with FMCSA leadership, attend and speak up at one or more of these sessions.
One additional thought on the timing of potential changes. FMCSA started this process now in a likely attempt to finish it and publish the next wave of HOS changes by the end of 2020. This date coincides, of course, with the end of the Trump Administration’s term. The 2-year timeframe between now and November of 2020 is about what it takes for a federal agency to complete a significant rulemaking. In fact, using FMCSA’s rulemaking history as a guide, it’s probably a bit accelerated. But, when there’s a will, there’s a way. FMCSA just demonstrated its will.
Have questions? Want to know how to file comments or engage in the process? If so, call or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202 728 2851 for additional details. Likewise, be sure to check out PeopleNet’s ELD Resource Center to stay up-to-date on the latest information you need to keep your fleet safe and compliant.