FMCSA Looks to Revise HOS Regulations

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Few topics evoke the same passion in truckers and shippers like the ELD mandate and its impact on the enforcement of hours of service (HOS) requirements. The HOS regulations have been around for near a century, and while they were initially designed to reduce safety risks, mandatory enforcement through the ELD mandate may have an opposing effect. 

Since drivers have effectively less time to account for unforeseen issues, including slow traffic, increased dwell time, delays in loading and other factors, they must move freight faster, presenting additional risks to other drivers. The ELD mandate sought to simplify the lives of truckers, but it only complicated the matter. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) now looks to change HOS regulations to increase drivers’ flexibility, reports Business Insider.

Why Is the FMCSA Proposing Change?

The changes aim to increase flexibility and reduce the risks created by drivers following the implementation of the ELD mandate. The rules focus on extending the workday and giving drivers more opportunities to work, easing constraints placed by the ELD mandate. Discussions among truckers, reported by Freight Waves, suggest drivers are more annoyed than pleased by the announcement and in some other sources, some truckers are fans of the potential HOS regulations changes. 

What Exactly Did the FMCSA Proposed Changes Say?

The FMCSA proposed five prominent changes to the 1937 HOS regulations, says Transport Topics, including:

  1. Connecting the 30-minute break to eight hours of active driving time, and the break may occur by a drive using on-duty, non-driving status, instead of being off-duty.
  2. Revision to the sleeper-berth exception to divide the period with 10 hours off-duty across two periods, including both a seven-hour period and a three-hour period. Neither would affect the total time allowable and would effectively increase available on-duty time per day.
  3. Allowing one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, up to three hours, and pausing the 14-hour window. However, it is so long as the driver takes a consecutive 10 hours off-duty at the end of the shift.
  4. Modification of adverse conditions exception to allow drivers to have an additional two hours, provided ample time is taken to rest at the end of the workday.
  5. Changes to the short-haul exception, lengthening the drivers’ max on-duty hours to 16 and extending the distance radius to 150 air miles, not 100.

How Would More Flexibility Affect Truckers, Shippers, and the Economy?

According to FleetOwner, the proposed changes could save more than $274 million in the U.S. economy and empower shippers with more freight shipping options. Unfortunately, the three-hour pause that’s excluded from the 14-hour day leaves some drivers skeptical. As reported by Freight Waves, drivers had this to say, “[It] is another way for carriers to exploit their drivers.” Drivers are paid by the mile, not the clock, so until the FMCSA moves to change how drivers are paid, many will still see HOS regulations as a drain on their wage.

What Should Shippers and Drivers Do Now?

The American Truckers Association advises all interested parties to submit their comments to the FMCSA via the Federal Register notice. The comment period will last for 45 days, and at the end of the period, the FMCSA will make a final decision regarding the implementation or adjustment of proposed changes to HOS regulations. This commentary period represents the opportunity for shippers, carriers, truckers, and consumers alike to make their voices heard in how the trucking industry must move forward under the heels of the ELD mandate and HOS revisions.

As a result, shippers should encourage their own in-house drivers and business-to-business partners to comment on the matter. Remember that failure to comment makes your business complicit in the takeover of the HOS regulations, so stand up for what you see as reality and opportunity for improvement. Stand up for your beliefs. Also, encourage all third-party partnerships and vendors to voice their opinions on the Register too.

What’s the Bigger Picture?

The ELD mandate highlighted the problem with regulations designed 100 years ago being applied and enforced in today’s world. Today’s truckers have access to more technology and resources to stay alert and avoid safety risks. Unfortunately, the ELD mandate only increased enforcement and thereby led to the higher incident of taking safety risks. The FMCSA recognized this problem and is looking to overhaul the issue with changes to the HOS regulations. Together, truckers, shippers, carriers, consumers, and 3PLs will come together to address the FMCSA and its attempted measures to overhaul the HOS regulations and bridge the divide created by the ELD mandate. Everything changes. Why should HOS regulations change to stay in tune with the modern world?

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