Drivers, carriers offer mixed reactions to proposed hours changes

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Truck drivers and other commenters have so far offered mixed reactions to FMCSA’s proposed hours of service changes.Truck drivers and other commenters have so far offered mixed reactions to FMCSA’s proposed hours of service changes.

With the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s notice that it is extending the comment period of the proposed hours of service changes, there is now one month left for truck drivers, industry stakeholders and the general public to comment on the proposal.

Nearly 30 days into the comment period, there have already been more than 1,250 comments made on the proposal. Comments on the proposed changes can be filed here through Oct. 21.

Many comments already submitted agree with the proposed changes, while others think it will allow carriers to extend drivers’ working day by three hours. Other commenters mostly agree with the changes but would prefer more flexibility with the 30-minute break and the sleeper berth split, as drivers voiced during FMCSA’s listening session held at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas last month.

Changes in the notice of proposed rulemaking include allowing drivers to pause their 14-hour on-duty clock for up to three hours and extending split sleeper berth options for drivers. The proposal also includes for flexibility around the 30-minute break and allowing drivers to extend the 14-hour on-duty window for adverse conditions. Finally, the proposal would expand the on-duty period for short-haul drivers from 12 to 14 hours and extending the short-haul radius from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

Trucking company owner Samuel Kauffman commented that he supports the proposed changes and believes “it is an answer to the serious challenges we face in the trucking world today.”

Mark Wisnosky, of Arkansas, said he agrees with the proposal but “would just change the parameters of the split sleeper berth to a 6-4 or a 5-5 split.”

Wyoming-based Marvin Harmon said the proposed changes are a step in the right direction, but that they won’t cure the pressure drivers have felt since electronic logs were mandated.

“The 30-minute break should be eliminated totally it just adds to the pressure of the day, especially if your pulling oversized loads and already chasing daylight or time sensitive loads,” Harmon said. “The rest of the proposal will help drivers to not feel so under the gun and pressured by the clock.”

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Harmon added that shippers and receivers “need to be held responsible for many of the issues plaguing the industry,” such as detention delays.

William Halbrook, a 14-year owner-operator based in Missouri who’s had his own authority for two years, also brought up detention time, noting he loses a minimum of 10 hours a week waiting at shippers and receivers. Halbrook said there should be more accountability for shippers and receivers to put an end to extended load and unload times. He also said the 34-hour reset should be reduced to 24 hours. “In 24 hours, you’ve completely reset your body’s clock,” he said.

An anonymous commenter is in favor of being able to pause the 14-hour clock to allow more time to stop and eat healthy meals or take a nap without watching the clock. The commenter added that the 30-minute break should be nixed completely, but if it can’t be, splitting it into two 15-minute breaks over eight hours would be a better solution that requiring it all at once.

Connecticut-based Bill Taylor, who drives team leased to a carrier with his wife, Robyn, said his biggest issue with the existing and proposed hours rules is the 30-minute break. “Most of us stop in the course of the first eight hours to get a coffee, use the rest room, buy fuel, etc., so we are already not behind the wheel for eight hours straight,” he said. “If you added up the times that we do stop over the course of the day, I am sure it exceeds the 30-minute break.”

Driver Victor Orcutt voiced concern over the possibility of 17-hour days with the ability to pause the clock for three hours. “Way too many hours for carriers to use in further abusing their drivers,” he said.

Clarence Duncan said he thinks the proposed changes are “a bad idea” because “it lets drivers be put in situations that they are pushed to stop their time because of loading and unloading delays and pushed to stop their logs to make deliveries.”

Speaking to the proposed changes affecting short-haul drivers, Indiana-based John Solenberg, who hauls fuel within a 50-mile radius of his home terminal, said the changes “make sense of a complicated issue and would finally give drivers the ability to control how we do our jobs.”

Medium-sized fleet N&M Transfer (No. 231 on the CCJ Top 250), with approximately 350 trucks and 475 drivers, said it is “strongly in favor” of the proposed changes.

“We feel that the one negative of electronic logs is the stigma of reduced flexibility that may cause drivers or carriers to be less safe when a violation time is fast approaching,” the fleet said in its comments. “We feel these proposed changes will allow drivers and carriers to operate more safely in avoiding that potential safety risk, by relaxing that stigma, yet continue all of the positive safety improvements from electronic logs.”