DOT Promotes Flexibility in Trucking Hours to Maintain Trucker Safety

Trucker safety

In a recently released memo, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) detailed final rules updating the hours of service to increase safety on roadways by updating existing regulations for commercial truck drivers.

The need for this change has come about due to the disruption in the nation’s trucking supply chain as a result of COVID-19. The outbreak of the virus this last spring upended everything from logistics to international shipping, which then trickled down to trucking companies, altering their service hours. In turn, this increased demand has affected trucker’s overall safety.

The solution from the FMCSA was implemented to bring more flexibility to new hours of operation, thus encouraging more rest and support for truck drivers.

Hours of Service Rules: A Closer Look

First adopted in 1937, FMCSA’s hours of service rules specify the permitted hours of operation for commercial truck drivers. In 2018, FMCSA penned an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to receive public comments on the HOS rules to limit unnecessary burdens placed on truck drivers while upholding Trucker safety on highways and roads. In 2019, the Agency published a detailed proposed rule which received plenty of public commentary.

Based on these comments and input, FMCSA’s final rule on hours of service offers some revisions to the existing rules.

First, the FMCSA will increase safety and flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by requiring a break after eight hours of consecutive driving and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not driving status, rather than off-duty status.

Secondly, the FMCSA will modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow truck drivers to split their required 10 hours of off duty time into two periods. Also, the FMCSA will modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending the maximum window of time during which truck driving is allowed by two hours.

Lastly, the FMCSA will change the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the truck drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the truck driver may work from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

This change in hours of service rules is estimated to provide nearly $274 million in cost savings on an annual basis for the U.S. economy and American consumers. The trucking industry, although it has seen some disruption in recent years due to fewer available drivers and automation in driving technology, is still a major component of the national economy. The industry employs more than seven million people and moves nearly 75% of the nation’s domestic freight.

Since the onset of COVID-19, truck drivers have played a key role in getting the country through by driving supplies from state to state. FMCSA has provided relief to commercial truck drivers to get medical supplies, food, and household goods to Americans in need during these unprecedented times.

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