Trucking hours-of-service final rule under review at OMB

Major changes to federal hours-of-service (HOS) regulations have been sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final review after two years of revisions and thousands of public comments.

Jim Mullen, Acting Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), announced the progress today at the annual meeting of the Truckload Carriers Association in Orlando, Florida.

“We think it is a very big deal,” Mullen said in an interview with FreightWaves at the conference. “It’s essentially the last stage in the final rulemaking process.” The data sent to OMB, Mullen said, “strongly suggests modifications in the final rule, and the core basis of this effort is to provide greater flexibility to drivers but at the same time ensuring, if not improving, their safety.”

One thing Mullen would not say, however, is which of the proposals first suggested by FMCSA in its original notice of proposed rulemaking is making it into the final proposals sent to OMB.

FMCSA issued an initial Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in 2018 that generated over 5,200 comments on potential revisions to the HOS rules to “alleviate unnecessary burdens” placed on truck drivers following the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate.

The next step in the process – a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), issued in August 2019 – generated another 8,000 public comments and presumably is the basis for the final rule sent to OMB.

The NPRM laid out five key proposed changes:

  • Increasing flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by tying the break requirement to eight hours of driving time without an interruption for at least 30 minutes and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not driving status, rather than off-duty.
  • Modifying the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth; and the other period of not less than two consecutive hours, either off duty or in the sleeper berth. According to the proposal, neither period would count against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.
  • Allowing 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.
  • Modifying the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
  • Changing the short-haul exception by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on‑duty period from 12 hours to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.