Hours of Service (HOS) regulations have been a point of consternation in the transportation industry for years.
New Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) HOS regulations proposed just over a year ago make changes to the existing rules that allow for more flexibility and consider real world delays. These changes include:
Expanding the short-haul exception to 150 air-mile radius and allows a 14-hour work shift.
Adds up to 2 extra operating hours when driving in adverse conditions.
Requires a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time) and allows an on-duty/not driving period to qualify as the required break.
Modifies the sleeper berth exception to allow a driver to meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement by spending at least seven hours of that period in the berth and a minimum off-duty period of at least two hours spent inside or outside of the berth. The two periods must total at least 10 hours and neither qualifying period can count against the 14-hour driving window.
The new HOS rules are set to go into effect on September 29th, 2020. The FMCSA has estimated that the increased flexibility the new rules offered to drivers will generate $274 million in savings for the U.S. economy. How will the new regulations impact drivers?
The flexibility of the new rules allows drivers to be more productive with their time. The new 30-minute on-duty break will enable drivers to take their mandated breaks when waiting at load docks rather than just sitting around. This will allow them to spend more of their on-duty time driving. FMCSA has anticipated that the 30-minute break change alone will save carriers $2.8 billion over 10-years.
A major complaint of the old regulations was that it did not account for real-world delays such as traffic, weather, or long wait times at loading docks. This meant that drivers were often forced to pull over and spot in unsafe conditions, such as the side of the road, or risk HOS violations. The new two-hour driving window extension for adverse conditions will allow drivers to find safer accommodations.
A carrier and driver’s worst fear is racking up HOS violations, which come with penalties and hefty fees. “The flexibilities in this final rule are intended to allow drivers to shift their drive and work time to mitigate the impacts of certain variables (e.g., weather, traffic, detention times, etc.) and to take breaks without penalty when they need rest,” FMCSA said. Increased flexibility should result in fewer violations and more savings, but carriers should make sure drivers understand and comply with the latest HOS changes.
FMCSA has listened to the industry’s concerns and made beneficial adjustments. Drivers should see an improvement in productivity and safety, while carriers can enjoy better efficiency and cost savings. For clients, new HOS could mean quicker transit times. As carriers begin to realize the cost savings benefits of the new regulations, we may even see it reflected in rates.