The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) scheduled publication of new proposed hours-of-service (HOS) regulations for commercial truck drivers, originally set for early June, has been delayed until further notice due to additional review by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
“The timelines in the department’s regulatory updates serve as goals for the agency and are reflective of FMCSA’s plan to move quickly during this rulemaking process,” a spokesperson for FMCSA said. “The agency is hopeful the rule will be published soon.”
FMCSA received more than 5,200 comments on an advance notice of proposed rulemaking published in the Aug. 23 Federal Register. Potential changes to HOS regulations included:
- Expanding the current 100-air mile short haul exemption to 14 hours on duty from 12 hours on duty, to be consistent with rules for long-haul truck drivers.
- Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions.
- Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after eight hours of continuous driving.
- Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks equipped with sleeper berth compartments.
Additionally, FMCSA weighed input on separate petitions requesting the agency to:
- Allow covered commercial motor vehicle operators one rest break – for up to three consecutive hours – during every 14-hour on-duty period (filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association).
- Allow covered CMV operators to use multiple off-duty periods of at least three hours in place of taking 10 consecutive hours off duty (filed by TruckerNation.org).
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking has been under OMB review since late March. OMB allows up to 90 days for review of proposed rules. FMCSA was hopeful for the HOS proposal to clear sooner than that. Additionally, OMB allows for one 30-day extension, but that is still no assurance the rule will clear. A proposed speed limiter rulemaking was under review at OMB for more than a year before being killed.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said the new regulations reflect input from the industry.
“You told the Department you wanted flexibility and the Department listened. We asked for your participation, and you participated, with over five thousand, two hundred comments.
Chao said the Department understands the importance of giving truckers more flexibility.
“This was key to assessing if a change would ease unnecessary burdens on the industry while maintaining safety on our nation’s roadways,” Chao said. “The department is listening closely to the priorities of truck drivers and industry stakeholders. These innovations will help strengthen the trucking industry, increase safety and save lives.”
FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said his agency is taking a serious look at the HOS issue.
He said that stakeholders have continually told him of the need for more HOS flexibility. The agency is willing to consider changes, provided that “safety remains the priority,” Martinez said.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association helped spur the discussion on hours-of-service reform as it submitted a petition to FMCSA in February. The petition asked for regulations to allow drivers to take a rest break once per 14-hour duty period for three consecutive hours if the driver is off-duty. OOIDA also asked for the agency to eliminate the 30-minute rest break requirement.
After publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking on hours of service, FMCSA will accept public comments and then decide whether to proceed to a final rule and whether changes need to be made to the proposed rule based on public comments submitted.