The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced its long-awaited proposal for changes in the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations affecting commercial motor vehicle drivers.

The 129-page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) can be read on the Federal Register website, where you can also file your comments about the plan.

FMCSA proposes five key changes to the HOS rules, with the intent of increasing driver flexibility while maintaining safety, according to the agency:

  • Retain the 30-minute break rule but increase driver flexibility by tying it to eight hours of driving time, instead of eight hours of on-duty time. Allow the 30-minute break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not driving status, rather than off-duty.
  • Modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off-duty into 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. Neither time period would count against the maximum 14-hour driving window. Current HOS rules only allow an eight hour-two hour split and the shorter rest period is currently counted against the maximum 14-hour driving window.
  • Allow truck drivers to take a single off-duty break of at least 30 minutes and up to three hours, pausing the driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift. This proposal would accommodate disruptions in the driver’s workday, such as weather, traffic and extended detention times.
  • Modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted. Currently, truck drivers can extend their 11 hours of driving time to 13 hours under adverse conditions, but the 14-hour driving time window is not extended. FMCSA believes this will allow drivers to wait out or drive slowly through adverse weather conditions, rather than driving ahead to stay within their allowable driving window.
  • Adjust the short-haul exception 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. If adopted, all truck drivers would have a maximum 14-hour workday. Drivers utilizing the short-haul exception would still be required to return to their normal work reporting location at the end of each workday. While those drivers are not required to utilize electronic logging devices (ELDs), their employers must continue to maintain time records.

The Federal Register notice includes a useful chart comparing current law to the proposed changes and anticipated impacts on pages 10-12.

A final rule is likely months away and the effective date for any adopted changes will be set well beyond. This would be to allow adjustments needed in ELDs, as well as law enforcement and driver training on the new HOS rules.