The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on changes to Hours of Service (HOS) rules that would affect how a driver’s time is measured.
First adopted in 1937, the FMCSA’s HOS rules were amended as recently as 2013 with this proposed set of changes focusing on driver safety, giving commercial shipping companies greater route flexibility, and reducing accidents due to drive fatigue.
Pausing the On-Duty Clock
Drivers can “pause” the 14-hour on-duty clock to allow passage of long detention times. This proposed change will enable carriers to schedule more flexible routes and be more efficient without the delivery schedule being affected or missing delivery windows.
Changes to the 30-Minute Break Period
Another change being proposed is to the 30-minute break period to allow for some flexibility when that stoppage is taken. Within the first eight hours of on-duty time, a driver can take a break to fuel up, grab a cup of coffee, or just stretch their legs, with that 30-minute time period being counted as on-duty/not driving status, instead of being counted as off-duty.
On-Duty Time Extension for Special Cases
One particularly interesting proposed change is the allowance for on-duty time to be extended from 14 hours to 16 to account for inclement weather and unforeseen traffic conditions. Allowing dispatched drivers some room for delays due to unforeseen road-based situations, without adversely affecting freight delivery and shipper (customer) on-time expectations.
Split Sleeper Berth Time
Split sleeper berth times are proposed to change as well with the required off-duty time of 10-hours now having the ability to be recorded as seven consecutive hours and three consecutive hours. The advantage here is the split times can be served as off-duty or in the sleeper berth with neither period counting against a driver’s 14-hour time allotment.
Exempt Driver Hours and Distance Increase
Exempt, or short haul, drivers will be seeing an increase to their maximum on-duty time period rising from 12 to 14 hours, as well as an increase in their total per-day drive limit from 100 air miles to 150. This will allow exempt drivers and their dispatchers to be more flexible with routes and see an increase in delivery schedules.
These changes are just in the proposal stage. Any approved changes will have wide sweeping effects throughout the shipping and transport industry as well as for drivers and carriers that must be ELD compliant, but the changes will allow more flexibility and provide an extra measure of safety when it comes to rest periods for drivers.
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