New hours of service are being proposed by the American government in order to make roadways safer for commercial motor vehicle drivers and provide them with flexibility.

The American Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier and Safety Administration (FMCSA) has published a notice of proposed rulemaking on changes to the hours of service (HOS) rules.

“This proposed rule seeks to enhance safety by giving America’s commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time,” stated U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in a release.

First adopted in 1937, FMCSA’s hours of service rules specify the permitted operating hours for commercial drivers. In 2018, FMCSA authored an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to receive public comment on portions of the HOS rules to alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers while maintaining safety on highways and roads. In response, the agency received more than 5,200 comments.

“FMCSA wants drivers and all CMV stakeholders to share their thoughts and opinions on the proposed changes to hours of service rules that we are putting forward today. We listened directly to the concerns of drivers for rules that are safer and have more flexibility—and we have acted.  We encourage everyone to review and comment on this proposal,” stated FMCSA administrator Raymond P. Martinez in a release.

Based on the comments, FMCSA’s proposed rule on hours of service offers five key revisions to the existing HOS rules. First, the agency proposed increasing safety and flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by tying the break to the eight hours of driving time without interruption for at least 30 minutes and allowing the break to be classified as on duty not driving status rather than off duty.

Second, the agency proposes a modification of the sleeper-berth exception to allow driver to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: One of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of not less than two consecutive hours, either off duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.

Third, the FMCSA would like to allow one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than three hours, that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift.

Fourth, it was proposed that modifications needed to be made regarding adverse driving conditions exemptions by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.

Last, the agency would like to change the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the driver’s maximum on-duty period from 12 hours to 14 hours. FMCSA would also like to extend the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

“The proposed rule would not increase driving time and would continue to prevent CMV operators from driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute change in duty status,” stated the agency.

In Addition, FMCSA’s proposed rule on hours of service regulations is estimated to provide $274 million in savings for the U.S. economy and consumers. The trucking industry employs more than seven million people and moves 70% of the nation’s domestic freight.

FMCSA will hold open the public comment period for 45 days. Those who would like to make a comment can do so by identifying docket number FMCSA-201 8-0248 on the Federal eRulemaking Portal

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