Run an e-log as a team? Keep a regular weekly schedule? …

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Updated Aug 15, 2015

Shut down for at least one sundown-to-sundown period and at home for at least 48 hours every week? If your answer if yes to all of those questions, including the two in the title (and we’re talking 395.15-compliant AOBRD, not just a logbook app with no engine connection), you may have grounds to request an hours of service exemption allowing more flexible split sleeper periods.

Those are the conditions of an under-reported exemption granted to the McKee Foods private carrier (think Little Debbie and other snack foods) back in late March and active through March of this year. The exemption allows more permissive splits of the 10-hour sleeper period for McKee team operators — 5/5, 4/6 and 3/7 — as long as the conditions detailed in my questions are met. Read the fine print in the Federal Register at this link.

Results of Overdrive polling in 2013 showed widespread support for more-permissive split sleeper berth period rules.Results of Overdrive polling in 2013 showed widespread support for more-permissive split sleeper berth period rules.

In FMCSA’s justification for granting the exemption, the agency responds to critics who alleged that doing so would be a “slippery slope” toward essentially indicating that “the current HOS is not suitable for acquiring the needed rest.”

FMCSA’s response:
The Agency does not believe that an exemption from the sleeper berth requirement is an indication that the current HOS is not suitable for acquiring needed rest. An exemption in this instance would only provide flexibility of how the 10 hours in the [sleeper berth] are split but does not reduce the 10-hour rest requirement. Split SB periods were allowed prior to 2003; therefore, many MCSAP officers remain familiar with it, and training others can be done economically through existing, continuing training methods.

And on the validity of the exemption generally:
The Agency believes that the FMCSA-sponsored study entitled “Investigation of the Effects of Split Sleep Schedules on Commercial Vehicle Driver Safety and Health” cited by [McKee Foods] provides a reasonable basis for an exemption of this type, which will enable FMCSA to observe the effects of split sleep in a real-world context over a substantial time period.

They’re not there yet, but my conversations with FMCSA recently lead me to believe the agency is at least open to considering exemptions (with conditions) that will allow them an ability to continue to study this issue. Science on split sleep and fatigue outcomes is changing, and the agency, as we know, continues to study the issue.

The rigidity of the 14-hour on-duty window was based, in part, on science that seemed to prove dangers associated with split sleep at the time the 2003 rule was developed.

Critics of the McKee Foods exemption request (public safety advocates, largely) also noted another “slippery slope,” as they put it: the potential for FMCSA to be “hounded by other motor carriers to participate in the exemption or submit a new exemption based on the individual carrier’s needs.”

So, though all of these are quite unlikely to apply to most of you, it bears repeating… Run an EOBR/ELD in a team? Keep a regular weekly schedule? Shut down for at least one sundown-to-sundown period a week? At home for at least 48 hours a week?…

Segment-specific rules? Been there, done that.
After my Tuesday brief detailing readers’ thoughts on the rash of various exemptions that have been requested by carriers relative to various portions of the hours of service rules, FMCSA’s Duane DeBruyne got in touch to point out that “in the 2000 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” on hours of service, “the Agency did propose a five-tier approach to the hours-of-service rules.”

Opinion on whether the hours of service should take a one-size-fits-all or segment-specific and/or experience-tiered approach has been varied in my conversations with and polling of drivers over the years. As I noted on Tuesday, favor for a move away from the current, mostly one-size-fits-all approach was among top changes in our reader-driven “hours of service wish list” of fairly recent vintage.

DeBruyne noted that more than 50,000 public comments were received in response to the 2000 proposal — most of them objected to the complexity involved in the tiers chosen at the time, particularly when the driver’s job involved working in different tiers at different times.

For those of you who, like me, have come to the industry in years following 2000, here’s what they looked like, abandoning the “one-size-fits-all approach to work-rest cycles,” per this archived summation on FMCSA.DOT.gov:

Type 1 (Long-haul) | drivers who operate two or more off-duty periods away from their normal work reporting location must have at least 10 consecutive hours off duty in each 24-hour period. They must also have 2 hours off-duty during the workshift.

Type 2 (Regional) | drivers who operate only one off-duty period away from their normal work reporting location must have at least 10 consecutive hours off duty in each 24-hour period. They must also have two hours off duty during the workshift.

Type 3 (Local-split shift) | drivers who operate within 6 hours’ driving distance of their work reporting location and return to that location at the end of the shift must have at least 9 consecutive hours off duty during the 24-hour period with an additional 3 consecutive hours off duty at some other point during the same 24-hour period.

Type 4 (Local) | drivers who operate within 6 hours’ driving distance of their work reporting location and return to that work reporting location at the end of each shift must have at least 12 consecutive hours off duty in each 24-hour period.

Type 5 (Primary work not driving) | drivers whose primary duties for the motor carrier are duties other than driving, and who report for work and are released from work at the same normal work reporting location must have at least 9 consecutive hours off duty in each 24-hour period.

Read the full summation at this link. A key element of the proposal was also, as noted in the summation, to “require long-haul and regional drivers,” as defined above (which would include most of you), “to use electronic on-board recording devices (EOBRs). This would ensure verification of these drivers’ compliance with the regulation and would be used by the Department only for such verification — the Department would not use the EOBRs for other purposes. Tougher standards are being proposed for these drivers because of their high level of fatigue-related crash involvement,” compared to the other segments, FMCSA noted at the time.

Suffice it to say that none of that happened. FMCSA’s Tom Yager, Chief of the agency’s Driver and Carrier Operations division, categorizes commentary against the tiered hours rules at the time not as an objection to a segment-based approach itself but rather this one in particular. The difficulty, for instance, was noted continually that drivers in some cases may fall under one or another of the segment definitions in any given week — or day, even — and that the system was just not simple enough to be workable. When FMCSA ultimately published a final hours of service rule in 2003, all of it was dropped in favor of something that resembled the framework of the system in place today, 14-hours maximum on-duty, etc., with of course several rounds of tweaks over the years.

It’s also worth noting that, relative to the 30-minute break exemptions, most are not exemptions from taking the break, necessarily, but rather an allowance for particular operators to log it off-duty when they are in fact still in readiness to work, necessary in security-sensitive operations among others. Exceptions include the oversize/overweight haulers’ exemption and the livestock haulers’ exemption. In both of those, the highway-safety benefits gained by taking the break are offset by external drawbacks, FMCSA believes, sufficient to grant exemptions.

Nonetheless, fodder for debate in the hours conversation, as it will no doubt continue. Thoughts?

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