A supplier of industry training materials, Instructional Technologies Inc. (ITI), has informed FleetOwner that it uncovered an important hours-of-service (HOS) issue while finishing developmental work on new training modules that will be incorporated into its TREAD-1 interactive driver-training program.
According to Dr. James Voorhees, CEO of the Vancouver, WA-based firm, the question concerns drivers placed out of service while hauling hazardous materials.
“In the course of researching the new regulations,” said Voorhees, “we had a question that nobody, at first, could answer: If a driver is placed out of service at a weigh station or other roadside location for a logbook violation and has exceeded the 14-hour on-duty limit, is the driver still moved to an off-duty status if the load is placarded [for hazardous material]?
“There is an inherent conflict here,” Voorhees explained. “The driver is required by HOS regulations to go off-duty, but at the same time the driver is required to remain with a hazmat vehicle. So, can he or she be made to remain with the load even though technically off-duty?”
After extensive research, Voorhees said he received this official interpretation from Mary Moehring, division chief for FMCSA:
“In the situation you describe, the driver could not record his or her duty status as off-duty after being placed out of service if he/she is required by 49 CFR 397.5 to stay with the vehicle. Section 397.5 (d) specifically provides that attendance on a vehicle means a driver is ‘awake, not in the sleeper berth or is within 100 feet of the vehicle and has it within his/her unobstructed field of view.’
“Therefore, the driver must remain on-duty indefinitely while the motor carrier dispatches someone to relieve the driver of all responsibility for watching the vehicle. This is the case under the current rule, and would be the case under the new rule since the Final Rule did not make any changes to this provision.”
That said, another question remains: Could the driver in this circumstance still be found in violation of HOS provisions if he or she exceeds the 14-hour on-duty limit as required by 397.5 (d).
“Being on-duty is not a violation,” according to FMCSA, “although it will, of course, impact the number of hours available under the 60/70 hour rule. The driver would be in violation, however, if he or she starts to drive in this situation.”