Request denied: FMCSA 'stands by' 30-minute break Thinkstock

Request denied: FMCSA 'stands by' 30-minute break

Agency rejects CVSA petition, says enforcement issues don't outweigh safety

Noting that any enforcement difficulty created by the 30-minute rest break provision in the driver hours of service rule “does not negate its safety benefit,” the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has denied a petition by its partners on the pavement to strike the provision from the rule.

In a letter to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, FMCSA “believes there is no basis for rescinding the 30-minute rest break requirement,” the agency writes. “Neither the scientific studies that were relied upon nor the roadside inspection data reviewed for calendar years 2013, 2014 and 2015 support the contention that the safety benefits are questionable or that enforcement is particularly difficult, even after granting limited exemptions for certain industry segments.”

CVSA had submitted its petition in late October last year. In the request, the alliance of North American trucking regulatory enforcement agencies restated its early concerns over enforceability of the 30-minute break, and again explained that an inspector has no way of verifying whether or not the driver was legitimately off duty during that time or if he/she used the time to perform other work-related duties, such as fueling, inspection, or loading and unloading times.

“This provision gives problem drivers, and motor carriers, an opportunity to falsify their record of duty status (RODS) in an attempt to disguise, or conceal, on-duty hours,” CVSA said, quoting the 2011 filing. “Enforcing this proposed rule is impossible without supporting documents to either verify, or refute, such entries. Further, CVSA does not believe there is evidence that the requirement improves a driver’s overall CMV operational capabilities or increases safety.”

Complicating matters—and reinforcing its points—the petition notes that FMCSA has issued a number of exemptions to the 30-minute rest break requirement, to various sectors of the industry.

“While CVSA does not object to these exemptions on an individual basis, exemptions complicate the enforcement process, causing confusion and inconsistency in enforcement, which undermines the very foundation of the federal commercial motor vehicle enforcement program—uniformity. The regulations are only effective if they are clear and enforceable,” CVSA wrote in October. “Removing the requirement would eliminate confusion and inconsistency in enforcement, which benefits both industry and the enforcement community, while also saving both industry and the agency time and resources currently being spent on the petition process. All without negatively impacting safety, as FMCSA has already indicated in the many exemptions granted from the requirement.”

But FMCSA “stands by” the rule and “finds no merit in CVSA's challenge,” according to the letter, signed by Administrator T.F. Scott Darling III.

CVSA  provided Fleet Owner a copy of the Aug. 8 response after FMCSA denied a request for a copy.

As required by the FAST Act, FMCSA has posted a list of petitions filed with agency, along with the status, although the list as of Aug. 22 did not reflect the CVSA decision.

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