In late March at the Mid-America Trucking Show, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced that the U.S. DOT had just sent an hours of service (HOS) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) back in August of 2018, to gather data, information and opinion on four areas of HOS. The agency also asked for responses to petitions filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and from on specific areas of HOS.

The four HOS areas in which public comment was sought were:

  • Expanding the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers;
  • Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions (currently, only the 11-hour driving time can be extended under adverse conditions);
  • Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after eight hours of continuous driving; and
  • Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment. FMCSA later terminated a pilot program examining the impact of various split sleeper berth times.

As FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez commented recently, the response to the ANPRM was robust, with over 5,200 comments filed, most calling for more flexibility in HOS. Secretary Chao said all comments have been read and catalogued and the call for flexibility has been heard.

Details on the NPRM contents, though, must await procedural steps. The NPRM will be reviewed by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within OMB. OIRA will examine the proposal for consistency with administration policy and will determine if the NPRM is a “significant” rulemaking, which would entail further interagency review. There is no time limit on the OIRA review, though 30 days can be expected at a minimum.

Once cleared by OIRA, the NPRM will be filed at the Federal Register for publication. At that point, the proposal will be open for all to see. A new round of public comment will be called for, typically with a 30-60 day deadline. Where an ANPRM seeks for generalized comments, an NPRM calls for focused responses to specific proposals, so this second round of comments will be critical.