The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has finally published its proposed changes to the Hours of Service (HOS) rules. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) would impact the 30-minute rest break, allow some split-sleeper schedules, give drivers a “pause” button for their 14-hour clock, and more.
According to FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez, the HOS reform is supposed to give truck drivers some much-needed flexibility.
“Drivers face congestion, parking issues, unexpected adverse conditions – and they need some flexibility,” FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said according to Heavy Duty Trucking. He also acknowledged that “it may have been” that drivers feel that ever since the ELD mandate went into effect, they’ve been pushed into racing the clock even when they’re already fatigued.
“We hope that by providing flexibility, it puts a little more power back in the hands of drivers and carriers to make smart decisions regarding safety and the reality of what they’re facing on the roadways,” said Martinez.
In the 129-page document, there are five proposed changes. Seeing changes are the 30-minute rest break, sleeper rules, adding a “pause button” for the 14-hour clock, loosening short-haul air mile restrictions, and adding some wiggle room during adverse driving conditions.
You can find an in-depth breakdown of the proposed rules here.
According to the FMCSA, the changes will provide a $274 million savings for the U.S. economy. This is accomplished by increasing the amount of their 11 hours of drive time that truckers actually spend driving. The increased efficiency is expected to lower freight rates, and therefore shipping costs.
The proposed changes have been lauded by both the American Trucking Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association – two groups that often find themselves on opposite sides of the battlefield. But while large carriers and Owner-Operators could possibly win big with the proposed changes, the fate of company drivers remains uncertain.
While the FMCSA is asking for public feedback on the NPRM, the comment period is not yet open. According to Martinez, the notice will likely be posted in the Federal Register – and be ready for comment – by Monday, August 19th.
“I hope that people will comment. Don’t assume this is a done deal,” Martinez said. “If you like it, please tell us you like it. If you like parts of it, tell us you like parts of it and what parts you don’t like. Be constructive in your criticism to help us create a final rule as quickly as possible.”
Once the comment period is over after 45 days, a final rule will have to be drawn up and proposed. That process will likely take months or more. And even once the final rule is issued, it will likely be a year or more before it goes into effect. And that’s if the likely legal challenges to hold things up.