Updates to Hours of Service proposed to ease the strain

By Mat Gallagher

A new proposal by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is seeking to relax the rules on Hours of Service (HOS) to allow the driver to have more freedom in when and how they break up their time.

The FMSCA estimates that the proposed changes would save money, increase capacity and give more flexibility, without any increase in the number of hours drivers can spend on the road.


These are the proposals:

  • Short haul exception increased from 12 to 14 hours, with distance extended from 100 to 150 air miles.
  • Adverse driving condition maximum window extended by two hours, during which driving is permitted
  • Required 30-minute breaks from driving can be taken while on-duty but not driving
  • Off-duty breaks between 30 minutes and three hours to be considered a pause in the 14-hour driving window
  • Sleeper berth exception to allow 10-hour off-duty period to be split, with at least 7 hours in sleeper berth

Hours of Service rules have been in place since 1937 but, in April 2018, Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) became mandatory for commercial truckers who are required to prepare HOS records. Replacing the paper records, the ELD was designed to improve safety by stringently enforcing the HOS. However, many drivers believe that enforcing these rules to the letter of the law is not workable and removes the option for drivers to make informed decisions on their journeys. The result has been longer transit times, higher costs per mile for shippers and a drop in trucking capacity. A report by the OOIDA Foundation found that, while HOS violations have decreased since the ELD mandate, the number of truck crashes has actually increased.


Many drivers believe that enforcing these rules to the letter of the law is not workable and removes the option to make informed decisions on their journeys


At a listening session with truckers shortly before the April 2018 ELD deadline, the then newly appointed FMSCA administrator, Ray Martinez, stated that, “In four weeks, I’ve realized, and you should also realize, that ELD might not be the issue. The issue is hours of service.”

The statement from the FMSCA, regarding the proposals, estimates that the changes will save an average of $124.04 per driver in 2020, and annual savings of $274 million for the US economy and American consumers. The proposed changes by the FMSCA to the Hours Of Service Rule is now open for public comment for 45 days. The date a final rule would take effect is yet to be decided.

Tags: Industry news, Owner operators

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