On May 14, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration updated the rules and regulations related to hours of service requirements for the trucking industry. The FMCSA regulates the numbers of hours in day and week that a truck driver can work and also mandates a certain amount of rest time and days off. These regulations exist to limit the number of serious accidents caused by fatigue involving tractor trailers.
What Are FMCSA Hours Of Service Regulations?
The hours of service regulations generally require that truck drivers limit themselves to eleven hours of driving time and fourteen hours of on duty time in any twenty four hour window. Drivers must also take breaks within their driving time and cannot extend their fourteen hours through breaks, meals, or fuel stops. A weekly cap of sixty hours of on duty time over seven days or seventy hours of on duty time over eight days also exists.
What Does The New Rule Change?
The new rule makes four important changes to these regulations. The first applies to the thirty minute required break truckers must take. Previously this break had to be taken during the first eight hours of on duty status. The new rule will allow it to be taken at the end of eight hours of on duty status and this break can now be satisfied by the driver switching to an “on duty, not driving” status rather than an “off duty” status.
Additional Change To Sleeper Berth Exception
The second change modifies the sleeper berth exception. This exception allows drivers to log off duty time when they are in the sleeper berth of their truck and off-duty. Previously, drivers could split this time up into an eight hour period and a two hour period to extend their fourteen hour day. The change allows drivers to make this a seven/three split in addition to an eight/two split.
Adverse Driving Exception and Shorthaul Exception Also Changed
Two other changes extend the adverse driving exception by two hours and extending the shorthaul exception by two hours and an additional fifty air miles.
Rule Changes Expected To Add Flexibility
These rule changes should give both truck drivers and trucking companies additional flexibility while complying with hours of service requirements. The FMCSA estimates the changes will save the trucking industry about $25 million a year. It comes at a useful time as COVID-19 has caused trucking industry revenue to plummet.
Some Concerned With Safety Taking A Back Seat
At the same time, safety advocates have raised concerns that the changes will increase incidents of fatigued driving and that this will in turn lead to an increase in accidents and traffic fatalities involving large trucks. Insurance premiums have increased significantly for the trucking industry in recent years and any increase in serious accidents will ultimately hurt the bottom line of the industry over the long term.
What Should Trucking Companies Do Now?
For now, trucking companies should update any policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the new rules and make sure their staff are educated on how to apply them.