The extended comment period is over on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) concerning Hours of Service reform. A huge number of comments from the public were received. Though no official analysis has been completed yet, it looks as though there’s a great deal of support for reform that could give drivers some much-needed flexibility.
While the window for comments was fairly short, over 5,200 comments were submitted online into the Public Register. Trucking, it seems, is hungry for a change. Even FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez is feeling the push, saying during a public listening session that the agency is “on a very aggressive time line” when it comes to deciding what changes need to be made.
Again, while there has been no comprehensive analysis made available yet, it seems that the majority of comments came from individuals. Click on any of the comments online and there’s a pretty good chance it’s from a company driver or O-O. Most of those comments seem to support changes. Repealing the mandatory 30-minute rest break and allowing for split sleeper schedules or a “pause” on the 14-hour clock come up again and again.
A common suggestion for a split-sleeper rule is to allow drivers to consider any break of longer than 2 hours of non-driving time as part of their required 10 hours of off-duty time. That would mean drivers could split their off-duty into 8/2, 7/3, 6/4, or 5/5.
Many respondents, including the Maryland Motor Truck Association, referenced a study conducted by the ATRI which found that allowing flexible split-sleeper schedules helped truckers save 45.5 minutes of drive time and reduce their on-duty time by 1 hour and 15 minutes each day.
Even Cal Bahr, a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, submitted a comment saying; “Any period of two hours or more in the sleeper berth should stop the 14 hour clock. Why do the current rules penalize an action (rest) that they are supposedly designed to promote? Getting rest when needed should never be penalized.”
Nothing seemed to have more resounding support in comments than a repeal of the required 30-minute rest break. The Western States Trucking Association neatly distilled what seems to be the most widespread opinion on the mandatory 30-minute break. The called it “almost universally viewed as the most obnoxious of all the HOS rules.”
When making new regulations though, it’s often not the majority opinion that prevails. The push for flexibility and reform might have been quashed by big players if they had opposed it. But instead, the Truckload Carriers Association, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, and individual mega-carriers like C.R. England seem ready to ditch the 30-minute rule and give a split-sleeper program a try.
Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest lobbying group in the country ($103.95 million on lobbying in 2016), said in their comment that “The Chamber continues to doubt the benefits of requiring a 30- minute rest break within the first eight hours of a shift.”
With such popular support and huge lobbying power, it looks like HOS reform is inevitable. But even with Ray Martinez pushing efforts along as quickly as he can, the wheels of change – especially in government – will likely continue to grind slowly.