Proposed federal rule changes for commercial truckers have prompted opposing claims that the result will range from safety and flexibility, to exhaustion and danger.
The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has published a notice of proposed changes to hours of service rules, according to EHS Today, an occupational safety and health journal.
Break times, consecutive driving hours, effects of adverse driving conditions and distance limits are among the areas addressed by the proposed changes.
What are the proposed hours-of-service regulation changes?
According to the FMCSA’s summary of the plan, the proposed changes would improve efficiency by increasing truckers’ flexibility.
The FMCSA proposed changes would:
- Make the 30-minute break requirement for drivers applicable only in situations where a driver has driven for a period of eight hours without at least a 30-minute non-driving interruption. If required, a 30-minute break could be satisfied with a period, either off-duty, in the sleeper berth or on-duty not-driving.
- Modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off-duty into two periods: one of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other of not less than two consecutive hours, either off-duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window. Currently, a driver must spend 8-10 consecutive hours in the sleeper.
- Allow one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than three hours, that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift. Currently, once the duty period starts, it runs for 14 consecutive hours, after which the driver may not drive a commercial vehicle again until having another 10 or more consecutive hours off-duty.
- Change the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted. Currently, if a driver operates a commercial vehicle for two hours beyond the maximum time allowed, because of adverse driving conditions, this doesn’t extend the driving cap imposed on drivers.
- Change the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on‑duty period from 12 hours to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 to 150 "air miles."
An air mile consists of just over 6,076 feet compared to the standard land mile of 5,280 feet. The term land mile refers to the distance between two locations measured by traveling between them in an imaginary straight line on the ground, according to online travel tips.
Potential consequences of HOS changes
Drivers’ safety would be jeopardized by the FMCSA proposed changes to hours-of-service regulations, according to one union official.
General President James P. Hoffa of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said the proposed rules would amount to abandoning safety and extending workdays that could exhaust drivers.
An official with the American Trucking Associations, however, said the proposal would be an update that improves highway safety and gives drivers more flexibility than they now have.
Association CEO Chris Spear said the FMCSA should be commended for mounting an open and data-driven process.
Contact Smith Law Office of Ohio today for help with car, truck and motorcycle crashes.