BREAKING: FMCSA issues final driver HOS rule

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued its long-awaited final rule on changes to driver hours-of-service (HOS) regulations today with four key provisions it asserts will increase driver flexibility and generate $274 million in cost savings for the U.S. economy.

“The Department of Transportation and the Trump Administration listened directly to the concerns of truckers seeking rules that are safer and have more flexibility – and we have acted,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen. “These updated hours of service rules are based on the thousands of comments we received from the American people. These reforms will improve safety on America’s roadways and strengthen the nation’s motor carrier industry.”

FMCSA’s final rule generated over 8,000 comments while it was being considered as a preliminary proposal and an official Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The final rule makes the following changes to the existing HOS rules:

  • Increase safety and flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by requiring a break after 8 hours of consecutive driving and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not driving status, rather than off-duty status.
  • Modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 split, or a 7/3 split. Neither period will count against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.
  • Modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
  • Change the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on‑duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

“The new hours-of-service changes show that FMCSA is listening to industry and fulfilling its duty to establish data-driven regulations that truly work,” commented Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) President John Lyboldt. “We especially thank the Agency for moving forward with additional sleeper berth flexibility. While TCA and our members advocate for full flexibility in the sleeper berth for our drivers, FMCSA’s new regulations demonstrate that we are one step closer to achieving that goal.”

Left out of the final rule was a provision that FMCSA had been considering in the NPRM. It was a provision that would have allowed 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.

“No rule will satisfy everyone, even within our industry, but this one – crafted with a tremendous amount of input and data – is a good example of how by working with stakeholders on all sides, government can craft a rule that simultaneously benefits the industry, specifically drivers, and maintains highway safety,” said American Trucking Associations Chairman Randy Guillot, president of New Orleans-based Triple G Express. “The agency should be commended for their efforts and we appreciate their willingness to listen throughout this process.”

The 230-page final rule is scheduled to go into effect 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register. However, road safety advocates have vowed to challenge the FMCSA’s changes in federal court, which could effectively delay rollout of the changes.