Proposed Changes to Hours-of-Service Rules

October 10, 2018

Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules are among those adopted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to establish safety standards that apply to commercial motor vehicle drivers. The HOS rules limit the amount of time commercial drivers can be on the road.

Truck drivers often log many hours on the road. When they are too tired, their ability to note and avert hazards is impaired. Accidents can have serious consequences for drivers, cargo, other motorists, and the roadway infrastructure. HOS rules aim to balance optimizing safety with delivering cargo on time and allowing shipping companies to make a profit.

Current Requirements

HOS rules limit drivers to maximum drive times depending on the circumstances. In a 24-hour period, up to 11 hours may be spent driving. This limit is eased for drivers having sleeping berths. Drivers must also take at least 30-minute breaks periodically and may not exceed weekly driving hour maximums.

Most drivers must maintain a record of their on and off duty (RODS) time on electronic logging devices (ELDs). Exceptions apply for some short haul drives in either a 12- or 14-hour window. Short haulers are also allowed additional driving time if adverse conditions arise (i.e. snow, sleet, or other weather conditions) if the conditions are not known at the time of dispatch. In this case, an extra two hours of driving time is allowed for the 12-hour window but not for the 14-hour window.

Petitions to Amend Rules

Some trucking companies argue the HOS rules are too inflexible and can force drivers to drive tired, in heavy traffic, or in bad weather or road conditions. They are also concerned about protecting perishable cargo and avoiding penalties for HOS violations.

Two trucking companies recently filed petitions with FMCSA to amend the rules. In response, the FMCSA published an advanced notice of rulemaking and suggested potential changes to ease restrictions, including:

  • Changing the mandatory 30-minute break after eight hours of continuous driving
  • Allowing an option to split the 10-hour off duty requirement
  • Expanding the short haul exemption from 12 to 14 hours
  • Extending the 14-hour on-duty limit by up to two hours when a driver encounters unexpected adverse conditions.

The FMCSA will accept public comments and hold several listening sessions. The agency also plans to initiate a pilot study to allow drivers with sleeping berths to split up their sleep time and gather data to test the viability of the changing to allow shift splitting.

Safety Concerns

Truckers are already at risk from driving long hours. To meet the demands of the job they often skip sleep, meals, and exercise and resort to using caffeine or other stimulants to stay awake. Extending driving times is a gambit that could put even more pressure on drivers to drive even longer shifts. In addition to increasing risks that come from imposing longer hours, easing HOS rules could increase stress on truckers and cause greater wear and tear on their health and wellbeing.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Represents Injured Truck Drivers

If you are a trucker who has been injured on the job, an experienced Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. can evaluate the facts, help gather important evidence, and develop a strategy to obtain the maximum compensation to which you are entitled. Call 888-PITT-LAW (888-748-8529) or complete an online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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