Articles & Updates

FMCSA New Hours of Service Guidelines Issued for Truck Drivers

Jul 20, 2020 | Articles & Updates

By Gilda M. Arroyo, Esq.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) has issued a Final Rule revising the hours of service regulations in an effort to “to provide greater flexibility for drivers without adversely affecting safety.” The rule is available at docket number FMCSA-2018-0248.

The FMCSA first published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making on August 23, 2018 and held five public listening sessions. The Final Rule is the result of the FMCSA’s review of nearly 3,000 submissions to the rulemaking docket and approximately 200 studies cited in written comments. Below is a summary of the new guidelines.

Short Haul Exception

The FMCSA has expanded the short-haul exception to the use of electronic logging devices to 150 air-miles versus the previous 100 air-mile radius. It also allows a 14-hour shift as part of the electronic logging device exception in place of the previous 12-hour shift.

Adverse Driving Conditions

The driving window during adverse driving conditions has increased to include an additional 2 hours for both property and passenger-carrying commercial motor vehicles. This extends the driving window of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles to 16 hours under adverse driving conditions.

Previously, a driver was permitted to drive a commercial motor vehicle for no more than 2 additional hours beyond the maximum driving time allowed –versus the maximum driving window. Under the previous provision, if the adverse driving condition was encountered toward the end of the driving window, a driver could not have taken advantage of the additional 2 hours beyond the maximum driving time. The Final Rule extends the driving window by the same 2 hours that currently apply to driving time.

Thirty Minute Break

A 30-minute break is now required after 8 consecutive hours of driving time –versus 8 hours of on-duty time. The Final rule also allows on-duty/not driving time –versus only off duty and sleeper berth time– to qualify as the required break.

Split Sleeper Berth

The sleeper berth exception has been modified to allow a driver to meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement by spending at least 7 hours –versus at least 8 hours– of that period in the sleeper berth. The Final rule also allows for a minimum off-duty period of at least 2 hours inside or outside of the berth, as long as the two periods total at least 10 hours.

Additionally, going forward, neither period counts against the 14 hour driving window (previously only the 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth [now 7] did not count toward the 14 hour driving window).

Potential Effects for Property-Carrying Commercial Motor Vehicles

The expansion of the short haul exception to the use of electronic logging devices from a 100 air mile radius to a 150 air mile radius allows drivers greater flexibility to maintain the short-haul status while receiving regulatory relief from the mandate requiring electronic logging devices for certain drivers.

The 2 hour expansion to the driving window and accompanying changes to the definition of “adverse driving conditions” grant drivers a greater role in decision making regarding operations during adverse weather and other unforeseen traffic related conditions.

The change linking the mandatory break to cumulative driving time rather than on-duty time takes into account the reality that many commercial motor vehicle drivers interrupt their driving time for activities such as loading and unloading, completion of paperwork and refueling. Previously, the break was required to be off-duty, as such, no work, not even paperwork, could be performed. In addition, the previous 30-minute break was triggered after 8 hours, regardless of actual driving time. The Final rule allows routine breaks from driving to satisfy the mandatory 30-minute break.

The split-sleeper berth rule allows drivers additional flexibility to take off-duty periods during a shift. Previously, the shorter rest period of at least 2 hours counted against the driving window. Currently, neither period counts against the 14-hour driving window. This may result in an increase in the number of hours worked during a given work shift.

Drivers of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles are still prohibited from driving more than 11 hours during a work shift (13 under the adverse driving conditions exception). An individual is still prohibited from driving after he or she accumulates 14 hours of on-duty time (16 hours under the adverse driving conditions exception).

The Final Rule is considered a major rule change. Manufacturers of Electronic Logging Devices (“ELD”) will need to update any systems that exceed the minimum requirements. Since the Congressional Review Act, 5 U.S.C. Ch. 8, requires a delay before implementation of a major rule, manufacturers of ELD and individuals in related fields will have some time to obtain compliance. Drivers and enforcement personnel must also be trained regarding the recent changes. The Final Rule will not take effect until September 29, 2020.

If you have any questions regarding the FMCSRs guidelines discussed herein, need assistance with clarification, or require assistance with defending a violation/citation issued to a motor carrier or driver, please feel free to contact any of the members of the Burns White Transportation and Trucking Group at (412) 995-3000.