Hours of service: Is there any hope for flexibility? We may find out this Friday.
The build-up, layered implementation, and execution of the ELD mandate has come and gone, but not without its fair share of consternation. The US Department of Transportation, all the way from Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao down to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has been paying attention to fleets and drivers making the transition while fighting off the worsening driver shortage.
The FMCSA is in fact beginning to take measures to add flexibility to ELD and hours of service (HOS) rules.
At the urging of a number of different industries, parts of the trucking industry, and even members of Congress, the FMCSA sought public comments in an Hours-of-Service Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM). Reports show that the vast majority of those required do indeed have an electronic device recording their hours of service and that HOS violations have gone down. But the need for some additional refinement still exists.
Hours-of-Service Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
The FMCSA is attempting to add further nuance to the letter of existing law. The FMCSA has identified four areas for input, none of which the department has made any particular recommendation on. This stage is exploratory and investigative with no particular hedging toward any particular outcome.
Expanding the short haul window
The current window on a 100-air-mile driver, or short-haul driver, is 12 hours. The Hours-of-Service ANPRM has taken input on expanding the window to 14 hours.
Adverse driving conditions
Current regulations allow for two extra hours of driving if a driver hits adverse driving conditions that couldn’t have been anticipated, such as traffic as a result of a really bad vehicle accident on the route. However, regulations do not currently allow for the 14-hour window to be expanded due to adverse driving conditions. The ANPRM has taken comments on whether or not to loosen that rule.
The 30-minute rest break provision
The ANPRM has taken comments on whether the 30-minute rest break provision should be revised or completely eliminated.
Split sleeper berth periods
Finally, the ANPRM has taken comments on whether split sleeper berth periods should be allowed.
Additionally, the FMCSA received two petitions for rulemaking, one from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and another from TruckerNation. The FMCSA has also sought comments on these petitions as well.
- OOIDA has proposed an off-duty period of up to three hours during the day that could extend the 14-hour rule up to 17 hours. This would add flexibility to what is now a very hard 14-hour window. The OOIDA also requested an elimination of the 30-minute rest break period.
- TruckerNation has proposed a 15-hour window of on-duty time that allows for off-duty time in the middle, regardless of whether it’s one period or multiple periods, that could extend the 15-hour window — much like the regulations before 2003.
When we spoke to Bill Quade, associate administrator for enforcement at the FMCSA, in early October 2018, he reported the FMCSA had more than 3,000 comments. Most of the comments favored change. The most commented-on proposal was the 30-minute rule change, followed closely by the 14-hour rule flexibility, specifically the OOIDA or the TruckerNation proposal.
The FMCSA has conducted a series of listening sessions. The plan is to follow through with a notice of proposed rulemaking in early 2019 that includes a specific proposal from the FMCSA. Another comment period would follow, and then, optimistically, final rules could hit the streets as soon as late summer, early fall 2019.
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Friday, June 7?
The DOT’s Significant Rulemaking Report for April indicated that the agency plans to publish the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the HOS changes on Friday, June 7.
But will we see the Notice on Friday?
The report only lists this as the “originally scheduled date.” Actual publication depends on the Office of Management and Budget’s review process, which could stretch past June 7.
For more information on the ELD mandate and onboard technology that not only keeps your fleet compliant, but also productive and efficient, visit spireon.com/fleetlocate-compliance or call one of our friendly experts at 800.557.1449.