A process that could alter current hours of service regulations has officially begun. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced Tuesday it is seeking feedback from industry stakeholders on ways to overhaul hours regs, focusing on four key areas:
- Extending drivers’ 14-hour daily limit by two hours in the event of adverse conditions;
- Allowing drivers to split 10-hour off-duty periods into segments;
- Revising the 30-minute break requirement;
- Expanding hours limits for short-haul drivers.
The advance notice of proposed rulemaking poses no reforms for hours regs. Instead, it simply lists questions aimed at gathering input from drivers, owner-operators, carriers and other industry stakeholders.
FMCSA also plans public listening sessions on the topics, including one at 3 p.m. Friday in Dallas at the Great American Trucking Show. Another listening session will be Sept. 14 in Washington, D.C., at FMCSA headquarters. Other listening sessions will be announced, said FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez, who announced the data gathering mission Tuesday.
“It’s time to have an honest conversation about hours of service,” Martinez said. “What we have been doing is listening to stakeholders in our regulated community over the last few months with regard to hours of service and what changes would they propose that would make sense and add flexibility. What we kept hearing was flexibility, flexibility, flexibility.”
Since the agency’s focus is safety, he said, “that is how we are approaching this: If we’re going to look at hours of service changes to add flexibility for the regulated community, as long as safety remains a priority, we’re willing to do that.”
Martinez says there’s “no guarantee” that any further action will be taken on hours of service reforms. He said the agency’s next steps will be predicated based on the feedback it receives from industry stakeholders and the public. “We’re encouraging everyone who has a stake in this to come forward and participate,” he said. “Hours of service have not been seriously addressed in 15 years.”
Martinez also said the implementation of the electronic logging device mandate, which forces more strict adherence to hours of service regulations, allows the agency to pivot to look for areas to add flexibility to hours regs.
To view the long list of questions posed by FMCSA about potential hours of service reforms, see its ANPRM at this link.
The agency’s move to begin evaluating hours of service regs was applauded by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations.
“Our members have continuously told federal officials that current regulations are overly complex, provide no flexibility, and in no way reflect the physical capabilities or limitations of individual drivers,” said OOIDA President Todd Spencer.
Likewise, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said his group is “pleased to see that Secretary Chao and Administrator Martinez recognize the need for sensible, data-driven hours-of-service reform,” and that the group will work to “provide FMCSA and DOT with the information they need to make needed, common sense improvements to the hours-of-service rules.”