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What fleets need to know about new HOS rules

Sept. 25, 2020
The new hours of service rules officially take effect on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 12:01 a.m. EDT across the country (or 9:01 p.m. PDT on Sept. 28). Here’s a look at what’s changing and how it affects your fleet.

New federal hours of service (HOS) rules — designed to give commercial drivers more flexibility — take effect across the U.S. at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has instituted four main changes to the longstanding HOS rules that dictate how much a professional driver can work before taking required off-duty time: 

  1. There will be more flexibility for the 30-minute break rule, which requires a break after eight hours of consecutive driving time. Drivers will now be allowed to satisfy the 30-minute break requirement during on-duty status while not driving. The previous rule required this break during off-duty status. 
  2. Modifications to the sleeper-berth exception now allow drivers to split their required 10 hours of off-duty time into two periods, so long as one of the periods is at least seven hours and the other is at least three hours. This can be an 8/2 split or a 7/3 split — and neither period would count against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.
    1. The adverse driving conditions exception has been extended by two hours for drivers who encounter unexpected road delays.
      1. The short-haul exception for drivers who start and begin their work at the same location is expanding from 12 to 14 hours and the distance these short-haul drivers can travel is widening from a 100-mile radius to 150 air miles.

        “All of those were provisions that we have heard about and had lots of discussions with the industry,” said Joseph DeLorenzo, the FMCSA’s acting associate administrator for enforcement, during a virtual presentation on the changes last month. “So this rule was really focused on the input that we received from everyone that's been involved in the process from the drivers to the carriers, (agricultural) groups and others.”

        What about ELDs?

        Electronic logging device (ELD) providers have had more than four months since the new rules were first published to update the software to match the new HOS rules.

        Geotab announced this month that the new rulesets for its customers will be available on Sept. 28, the day before the new HOS rules go into effect. “If your drivers use sleeper-berth split provisions, they will need to change rule sets to one of the USA Property Rulesets denoted ‘with Split Sleeper’ to have correct availability shown during use of split sleeper,” according to Kyle Dodsworth, Geotab’s solutions specialist team lead. “If your drivers do not use sleeper-berth split provisions for property carrying, there is no action to take. On Sept. 29, the availability shown to drivers will reflect the new break, adverse driving and short-haul limits where applicable.”

        Konexial, another ELD provider, has released a new version of its My20 application, which uses telematics technology to automatically log a driver’s location, HOS and available capacity. The company said this week that the ELD software, which is time-zone agnostic, will automatically recalculate a driver’s hours to meet the new HOS rules.

        Other ELD providers, such as Teletrac NavmanOmnitracs, Samsara and Verizon, have also told customers that their software will be updated to match the new HOS rules. Fleets should check with their ELD provider if they haven’t heard from them about updates.

        Pending litigation

        Less than two weeks before the new HOS rules were scheduled to occur, four safety advocacy groups filed a petition seeking to invalidate the changes. Filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Public Citizen Litigation Group is representing the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS), the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) in the suit. 

        “Under the guise of increased flexibility, the changes will further exacerbate the already well-known threat of fatigue among commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers by significantly weakening current HOS rules,” the groups said in a statement

        The FMCSA has disagreed with the safety advocates. “Each of these changes were based on the feedback we received from the thousands of public comments we received during the rulemaking and through the listening sessions we held around the country,” Jim Mullen, then-acting FMCSA administrator, said in May. “It is also important to note that this new rule will not increase driving time and will continue to prevent CMV operators from driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute change-in -duty status.”

        The suit against the rule changes is not expected to affect the implementation of the new HOS rules. 

        * * *

        The HOS rules officially take effect on Sept. 29 at 12:01 a.m. EDT, which means they will go into effect at 9:01 p.m. PDT on Sept. 28. DeLorenzo said this is to make the rule changes the same across the country. The FMCSA also offers an explainer on its website.

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