Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a notice to replace the current Hours-of-Service (HOS) standards that regulate commercial heavy-duty truck operations. In general, HOS standards dictate how much time a commercial driver can operate their truck and mandate rest periods drivers must take.
Under current regulations, drivers must complete their 11-hour driving limit within 14 hours of coming on-duty. Under the proposed changes, though, drivers would be able to pause the 14-hour limit and go off-duty for up to three hours before resuming. Additionally, instead of the currently required 10 consecutive off-duty hours, drivers would only need to take seven consecutive hours off-duty; while they would still need to be off-duty for 10 total hours, the remaining three could be used at another time during the shift. Critics have argued that the proposed changes could exacerbate the problem of driver fatigue, which is a major safety concern in the trucking industry.
Other proposed changes include the following:
- Requiring truckers to take a break in the first eight hours of driving time instead of the first eight hours of on-duty time.
- Letting truckers use 30-minute breaks while on-duty but not driving, such as while they are waiting for a shipment at a warehouse. This would allow drivers to complete their entire shift without having an off-duty break.
- Allowing drivers to extend their on-duty period by up to two hours in adverse conditions, such as bad weather or congested roads.
- Extending the maximum on-duty period from 12 hours to 14 hours for short haul drivers and the distance limit that the driver may operate from 100 to 150 air miles
The changes were proposed to improve flexibility in the trucking industry with the stated goal of “enhanc[ing] safety by giving America’s commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time.” These proposed changes came after the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) submitted a petition to FMCSA in 2018 to revise new industry regulations, such as the electronic log device (ELD) safety mandate that helps ensure drivers can no longer cheat by recording false hours of service details in their log books.
In response to the FMCSA’s notice, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety has brought up safety concerns regarding the proposed updates. In an Aug. 14 statement, the group said that it is “staunchly opposed to the proposed changes in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) published this morning by the [FMCSA] which would significantly weaken hour-of-service (HOS) rules.”
While it will likely be several months before any changes go into effect, it will be important for the trucking industry to monitor whether or not road safety is negatively impacted by any changes that do go into place.
Michael Leizerman is a truck accident attorney specializing in catastrophic multi-axle collisions. He understands all facets of truck accident litigation; including federal regulations, drug and alcohol testing and hours of service requirements. He has authored a treatise entitled Litigating Truck Accident Cases and often educates other attorneys on trucking laws and regulations. You can learn more about Leizerman & Young by visiting their website, www.truckaccidents.com.
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