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FMCSA's Ray Martinez says it is time to take a fresh look at some aspects of the HOS rules.

FMCSA considering multiple changes to HOS rules

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is considering changes to four areas of the existing hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, and has requested feedback from the public.

“It is time for an honest conversation about hours of service,” FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said during a Aug. 21 media conference call.

Martinez said stakeholders have continually told him of the need for more HOS flexibility. The agency is willing to consider changes, provided that “safety remains the priority,” Martinez said.

In an advanced notice of public rulemaking, the agency said it is considering expanding the 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption to 14 hours on-duty from 12 hours, extending the current 14-hour, on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a driver encounters “adverse” conditions, changing the mandatory 30-minute break after eight hours of continuous driving, and reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour, off-duty rest break for drivers operating vehicles with a sleeper.

Martinez referenced the 30-minute rest break as one portion of the rule that could be eliminated or changed. When asked about the meaning of “adverse” driving conditions, Martinez said that could best be defined through the public comments.

FMCSA said the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate had “brought focus to HOS regulations, especially with regard to certain regulations having a significant impact on agriculture and other sectors of trucking.” Compliance with the ELD mandate is at 99%, FMCSA said, based on inspection data. 

FMCSA is also seeking comment on petitions pertaining to the 14-hour, on-duty limitation, filed by the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), and the 10-hour, off-duty requirement, filed by TruckerNation.

OOIDA said members believe current rules force them to be on the road when they are tired, during busy travel times, and in adverse weather or road conditions. 

“The agency is finally listening and now the door is open for truckers to make their voices heard and to spur real, common-sense changes to the hours-of-service regulations,” said OOIDA President Todd Spencer.

“While today’s notice is just the first step, ATA stands ready to work with drivers and motor carriers to provide FMCSA and DOT with the information they need to make needed, common sense improvements to the hours-of-service rules in order to improve the safety of our highways and the efficiency of our industry,” American Trucking Associations said in a statement.

Likewise, the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) said it was “pleased” with FMCSA’s plan to collect data from the public, and that the ELD mandate was providing the government a better way to craft “data-driven policy reflecting flexibility to address the true problems faced by trucking.”

Besides accepting public comments for 30 days, the first of several public listening sessions is scheduled for Aug. 24 in Dallas.

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