On May 14, 2020, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced the final rule that revises the hours-of-service (HOS) rules for commercial drivers.

“America’s truckers are doing a heroic job keeping our supply chains open during this unprecedented time and these rules will provide them greater flexibility to keep America moving” – U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao

Read and view Secretary of Transportation’s announcement

The changes reflect over 8,000 comments submitted to the agency from the trucking industry asking for more flexibility in planning driver’s hours while maintaining safety on nation’s highways and roads. These changes are aimed at helping drivers avoid racing against the clock and get the rest they need when they need it.

FMCSA estimates that this regulatory change results in approximately $274 million in annualized cost savings for the industry.

 

Here are five key takeaways for carriers and drivers:

 

1. FMCSA offers changes in four areas of existing HOS rules:

 

HOS provisionExisting requirementRevised requirementImpacts
Short-haul Short haul drivers must:
  • Stay within 100 air mile radius of reporting location
  • Not be on-duty more than 12 hours
  • Not drive more than 11 hours
  • Start and end at the same location

Short haul drivers do not have to prepare RODS, use ELD, maintain supporting docs or take a 30-min break. Only need to keep timecard records for 6 months.

Change 100 to 150 air mile radius of reporting location.

Increase the maximum on-duty hours from 12 to 14 hours.
More drivers and more trips would be eligible for the short haul exception.

Those drivers won’t need to prepare daily RODS, nor need ELDs.
Adverse driving conditions In adverse driving conditions the driver gets an extra 2 hours in the 11-hour driving limit but must be done within 14 hour driving window. Increase the 14-hour driving by 2 hours to make it 16 hour driving window.

Passenger carriers may also increase the driving window by 2 hours from 15- to 17-hours.

Allows drivers time to wait out the adverse condition or drive slowly and safely through it without HOS violations.

30-min break Drivers must take at least 30-min break in off-duty status after 8 hours of being on-duty including driving.

Change so that the 30-min break can be satisfied by on-duty, not driving time, as well as off-duty status.

A 30-min break is due after 8 hours of driving time instead of on-duty time.

Now the driver can use on-duty time such as loading/unloading or fueling time to count towards the 30-min break

Suppose a driver started the day with 2 hours on-duty and then started driving. The driver will not need to take a break until later in the day.

Split sleeper berth Drivers can split 10-hour rest into two periods of 8 or more hours in sleeper berth and another off-duty period of 2 hours or more.

The off-duty period of 2 hours or more counts towards the 14-hour window.

Allow drivers to split the 10 hours as 8 hours in sleeper berth and 2 hours in off duty; or 7 hours in sleeper and 3 hours in off duty.

Now the 2 or more hours of off duty would also be excluded and not count towards the 14-hour window.

Gives options for the driver to split the rest in response to the variables he faces in the day.

Incentivizes the driver to take an off-duty rest period of 2 or more hours during the day so they can be more productive without cutting into the 14-hour window.

 
2. FMCSA did not take up on the the 14-hour split duty rule

In the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) the FMCSA proposed that a single off-duty rest of up to 3 hours could pause 14-hour driving window, which could potentially extend the driver’s shift to 17-hours.

Although FMCSA continued to acknowledge that this split duty proposal offers a lot of flexibility and incentive for drivers to take extended breaks, the driver protection issues and potential unintended consequences raised by numerous commenters were of high concern and the Agency decided not to include this in the Final Rule. Specifically, by extending the driver’s shift it could adversely impact sleep schedules, force drivers to drive fatigued and increase likelihood of safety-critical mistakes.

The Agency also emphasized that the total driving hours per day allowing up to 11 hours within a 14-hour window, and the weekly cycle limits of 60- or 70-hours in 7 or 8 days remain in place to prevent drivers from driving when fatigued.

 

3. The rules will take effect on a single compliance date

FMCSA concluded there will be a single date for compliance to minimize confusion. It means there won’t be any phase-in or soft-enforcement periods for these changes.

So when will it be? The HOS changes will take effect 120 days (around 4 months) from the date the Final Rule is published on the Federal Register. The final compliance date will be September 29, 2020.

 

4. FMCSA may get petitions to reconsider the final rule

Any person can petition the Administrator for reconsideration of this rule but the petition must be submitted to the FMCSA Administrator no later than 30 days from the publication in the Federal Rule.

Historically, HOS rulemaking has witnessed several challenges and petitions. We can anticipate there may be petitions and comments to this rule in days to come. These may potentially impact the changes and the effective date of the rules.

 

5. EROAD’s commitment to compliance

EROAD submitted comments on the technical implementation of the HOS changes. We offered a breakdown of the time needed to reprogram the ELD to accommodate the changes. We believe that the 120 days is very close to what EROAD estimated, noting that the split-duty rule is no longer required.

Our team has been working in anticipation of the Final Rule to prepare our software for reprogramming. We are confident that the rules currently supported will be updated by the Full Compliance Date. We are committed to ensuring that our drivers and carriers have a seamless experience on our ELD.

Designed with the driver in mind, our goal is to make compliance easy. Take the hassles out of HOS compliance with an ELD solution that gives you superior ease of use, accuracy and consistency. Contact us today to learn more!

Soona Lee

Director, Regulatory Compliance - North America
Soona Lee is responsible for understanding regulatory context and policies and technical requirements and translating them for development of the company's suite of compliance products.

More articles by Soona | About her 

5 Key Takeaways from FMCSA’s 2020 Hours-of-Service Final Rule

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