The U.S. Department of Transportation intends to propose a rule that would change federal hours of service regulations for truck drivers. Nearly seven months to the day after DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began soliciting feedback for a potential overhaul to hours regs, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao took to a stage before a packed crowd at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville to make the announcement Friday.
However, since the rule is still under review, Chao said she could not provide any specifics as to what’s in the rule or when it will be published. “I can’t say much while the rule is under consideration,” she said. “But let me note: The Department understands the strong interest in increasing flexibility and is giving it serious consideration.”
A notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on hours of service changes has been filed with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for approval. OMB must approve the NPRM before it’s published. Once published in the Federal Register, FMCSA will accept public comments on the proposed changes and then decide to pursue a final rule.
Chao’s address to the crowd made up mostly of truck drivers was brief, lasting only about 12 minutes and laden with odd interruptions. A power outage hit right as her speech began, followed by an emergency warning over a PA system that forced her to pause her speech. However, the announcement about the hours of service proposal was met with a round of applause from the crowd. Chao did not hear feedback from anyone in the room, and swiftly left the stage and the room when her speech concluded.
She thanked the truckers in the room for the job they perform, calling them the “backbone” of the U.S. economy. “Everybody in the DOT appreciates what you do to make America move and to have the quality of life we have,” she said.
She was flanked by FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez, who introduced Chao before her speech. Martinez, who assumed his role as administrator last March, heard feedback from stakeholders at last year’s MATS in a contentious listening session, in which truckers expressed visceral frustration with hours of service regs and the electronic logging device mandate.
Martinez’s time at MATS last year set the hours of service overhaul in motion. In August, Martinez announced the agency was eyeing hours of service regulations and urged truckers and other industry stakeholders to file comments to the agency’s hours of service pre-rule, also known as an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking.
“At last year’s Mid-America Trucking Show, you told the Department what you wanted. You wanted flexibility in hours of service regulations. And we listened,” said Chao on Friday.
She said industry feedback on the ANPRM was instrumental to the DOT’s decision to proceed to the proposed rule stage. “We asked for your participation and you participated.”