Common Sense HOS: part II, Give Us Flexibility!
Common Sense HOS: Part II of II, “Give Us Flexibility!”
The FMCSA is moving forward on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding Hours of Service rules, but will the newly proposed rule provide the one thing most truckers agree is needed most… flexibility?
We are taking an in-depth look at the issue in this exclusive two-part Transportation Nation Network featured report.
Little Rock, Arkansas – On Friday, March 29, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao spoke to a packed audience at the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, Kentucky, and announced Hours Of Service (HOS) reform was moving forward.
Flanked by Administrator Ray Martinez of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Sec. Chao enthusiastically exclaimed a Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) had been sent to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for review.
Those in attendance showed their appreciation by erupting into applause.
However, Sec. Chao was mum about what is actually in the newly proposed rule. “I can’t say very much while the rule is under consideration… but let me note that the department understands the strong interest in increasing flexibility and is giving it serious consideration,” she commented.
What Have Trucking Stakeholders Asked For?
Two groups, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and TruckerNation, filed petitions with FMCSA during the Advanced Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) public comment period, outlining what they believed to be the best paths forward on HOS reform.
OOIDA’s petition essentially asked FMCSA to allow drivers the flexibility to pause the 14-hour on-duty clock once each day for up to 3 consecutive hours so long as the driver is off-duty.
TruckerNation, a still newly-formed grassroots group of truckers fighting for better regulations, asked FMCSA to consider giving drivers even more flexibility.
TruckerNation’s petition proposes drivers should be allowed to split the required 10-hour daily rest break as many times as he/she deems as necessary, so long as each break is a minimum of 3 consecutive hours.
The petition reads:
TruckerNation.org firmly believes that a revision to current HOS regulations which would allow for a split in the 10-hour break as many time(s) necessary at the driver’s discretion and with a minimum of 3 consecutive hours for any break time, to equal 10 total hours of break time, so long as the time is accurately logged as off-duty.
Additionally, any 3-consecutive hour off duty breaks that are taken would be subtracted from driver’s required 10-hour off duty break required each day.
Both OOIDA and TruckerNation also asked FMCSA to eliminate the required 30-minute rest break. It should also be noted that neither group asked for hours to be added to the 14-hour work day clock.
The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) agrees that drivers must be afforded more flexibility within HOS rules.
In an exclusive interview with TNN, Dave Heller, TCA’s V.P. of Government Affairs, said, “The most important issue to TCA, when it comes to HOS reforms, would have to be incorporating flexibility into the sleeper berth provisions of the rule.”
Heller argued that because drivers are under increasing pressures such as detention time, congestion, weather or even finding safe truck parking, the need to provide flexibility is of “paramount” importance.
“I believe this industry, in particular the truckload segment, would reap the benefits of flexibility in the manner of reduction in accidents, lower traveling speeds, and quite frankly, allow for a driver to adapt to a comfort level on the roads that they see fit,” Heller said.
It seems as though consensus has been built on the need to provide drivers more flexibility, so will the newly proposed rule provide it?
What’s In The Newly Proposed Rule?
It’s the question that is on everyone’s mind. “What’s in the newly proposed rule?”
When Transportation Nation Network (TNN) asked about the specifics, a spokesperson for FMCSA would only say the NPRM is intended to provide “needed flexibility to commercial drivers while maintaining the highest level of safety on America’s roadways.”
We get it. The agency is bound by requirements not to divulge specific details until the OMB completes its review and FMCSA then completes its economic impact study.
The details will then be published in the Federal Register for all to see and a comment period will ensue.
Despite FMCSA understandably being tight-lipped on the newly proposed rule, TNN has spoken to many sources with knowledge of the agency’s thinking on HOS reform.
TCA’s Heller is confident better HOS regulations are on the way. “While it would be premature to know what the proposed rule looks like, we can assume, with the data that has been generated by mandated electronic logging devices, that our nation’s professional truck drivers could be granted more freedom to deal with the unpredictable nature of their work day, not by increasing the numbers of hours allowed for driving or working, but rather by creating an environment that would allow drivers to capitalize on the current hours that they have available to them,” he said.
Andrea Marks, Director of Communication for TruckerNation, told TNN she expects the proposed rule to look a lot like the petition filed by TruckerNation. “Based on some of the feedback we received from FMCSA, I’m very confident we will see something that closely resembles the TruckerNation petition,” she said.
Will hours be added to a trucker’s work day? And, what about that 30-minute break?
“I do not think they are going to touch the 14 hours, but I’m confident they are going to eliminate the 30-minute break as well,” Marks predicted.
Another trusted source, who has had discussions with FMCSA officials about HOS reform, and spoke with TNN on the condition of anonymity, said he expects the agency to put an end to the required 30-minute break as well as provide increased sleeper berth flexibility.
We wait. That’s right. We are in a holding pattern until the OMB completes its review.
Though it is notable that the OMB has already deemed the newly proposed rule as “economically significant” which TNN was the first to report. Sometimes it takes the OMB months to make such a determination.
It suggests the NPRM on HOS is being fast-tracked.
An FMCSA spokesman declined to comment this week when TNN asked for reaction to the swiftness with which the OMB made the economically significant determination, and if the agency had already begun its economic impact study.
One source told TNN this week to expect the OMB to complete its review and for the FMCSA to publish the NPRM in the Federal Register in days, not weeks, or months.
However, Marks said such an aggressive time table is not likely.
When the NPRM specifics are finally published into the Federal Register it is possible the public comment period could be expedited to fewer than 90 days.
Heller urged all trucking stakeholders to speak up during the comment period and not to take this moment for granted.
“I cannot emphasize this enough as we approach an NPRM on HOS that could shape the very future of this industry and the productivity that coincides with it,” he stated. “Opportunities like this only come every so often, and when they do, we should be seizing each and every chance to tell our story and provide sound data to back it up.”
So, we wait and hope… and hope and wait.