Proposed Hours of Service Rules: Balancing Safety and Economy

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, citing Congressional and public requests for review of the hours of service regulations, has recently proposed the following changes:

1. Changes to the short-haul hours of service limit;

This change would extend a short-haul driver’s hours of service maximum from 12 to 14 hours and would also extend the mileage limit from 100 to 150 miles.

2. Changes to the hours of service exception for adverse driving conditions;

This change would allow an extension of the adverse driving conditions exception by 2 hours.

3. Changes to the 30-minute rest break provision; and

This change would allow a driver to utilize on-duty, not driving status to meet his/her 30-minute required break.  Thus, a driver would no longer have to be off-duty to meet the break requirement.

4. Changes to the sleeper berth rule.

This change would allow a driver to choose to have one period of at least 7 consecutive hours in his/her sleeper berth, while having another period of not less than 2 hours either off-duty or in the sleep berth.  Both periods would still have to total 10 hours, however.

The above proposals, which are not yet effective, have been lauded as common-sense changes to the hours of service requirements.  Some proponents of the regulations believe that the changes allow drivers more flexibility to manage their trips and therefore, increases efficiency and productivity.

However, the proposals have come under fire by safety groups that are concerned about truck drivers being sleep deprived while on the road.  With a known shortage of truck drivers within the industry, some believe that taxing those that have chosen driving as a profession will only lead to a diminished quality of professional drivers and, perhaps, an increase in accidents and injuries. 

Currently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is accepting comments on the proposed changes and will do so for approximately the next 45 days.  No timeframe has been set for the implementation of the proposed changes.

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