In an ongoing effort to provide flexibility for truck drivers, the U.S. Department of Transportation is altering some hours of service (HOS) rules. The DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published final rules June 1, 2020 and the new hours of service regulations go into effect September 29, 2020.
The new rules, which came out of a 2018 rulemaking inquiry to determine if HOS revisions could remove burdens on drivers, will result in regulatory savings of more than $270 million, the FMCSA estimates.
The new rules affect four areas: Short-Haul; Adverse Driving Conditions; 30-Minute Breaks; and Sleeper Berths. Here are the changes that these areas will experience.
Those CDL carriers that use the short-haul exception and therefore are not required to use a RODS (record of duty status) or ELDs (electronic logging device), will see two changes. The new rules 1) extend the maximum driving distance allowed from a 100 air-mile to a 150 air-mile radius, 2) extend the maximum duty period from 12 to 14 hours.
Under the new rules, "Adverse Driving Conditions" get a slightly new definition. The new rule describes Adverse Driving Conditions as "snow, ice, sleet, fog, or other adverse weather conditions or unusual road or traffic conditions that were not known or could not reasonably be known to a driver or motor carrier." The previous rule did not include the role of the driver and specified that the exception only applied when adverse driving conditions were unforseeable.
Additionally, the updated rules extend the duty day by two (2) hours when such adverse conditions occur. This two-hour extension applies to both property and passenger carriers.
Under the new rule, drivers need to take a 30-minute break after driving for a total of 8 hours without at least a 30-minute break. The 8-hour driving time does not need to be consecutive; additionally, an "on-duty, not driving" period qualifies for the 30-minute break.
The prior rule specified that drivers carrying property were required to take a 30-minute break after 8 hours "on-duty."
The last HOS change allows drivers to split the 10-hour off-duty requirement into two periods: 1) One off-duty period (whether in or out of the sleeper berth) is at least 2 hours long; 2) The other off-duty period is at least 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth. That means drivers can split the requirement as 7 hours Sleeper Berth/3 hours off-duty or 8 hours Sleeper Berth/2 hours off-duty.
When both periods are used together, neither counts against the 14-hour driving window.
Many drivers and fleets have been waiting for these changes but it's important to note that violations and penalties will be in effect as per the old rules up until the change. According to the FMCSA guidelines, drivers and carriers must operate under the HOS final rule starting on the September 29, 2020, and not before.
Who must comply with the new HOS rules? Most commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers — whether carrying passengers or property.
For more information on the changes to DOT Hours of Service, visit these sources: