FINAL RULE ON HOURS OF SERVICE ISSUED. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued its long-awaited final rule on changes to driver hours-of-service (HOS) regulations with four key provisions it asserts will increase driver flexibility and generate $274 million in cost savings for the U.S. economy. “The Department of Transportation and the Trump Administration listened directly to the concerns of truckers seeking rules that are safer and have more flexibility – and we have acted,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen. “These updated hours-of-service rules are based on the thousands of comments we received from the American people. These reforms will improve safety on America’s roadways and strengthen the nation’s motor carrier industry.”
FMCSA’s final rule generated over 8,000 comments while it was being considered as a preliminary proposal and an official Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The final rule makes the following changes to the existing rules: 1) increased flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by requiring a break after 8 hours of consecutive driving and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using “on-duty not driving” status rather than “off-duty” status; 2) the sleeper-berth exception was modified to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off-duty into two periods – an 8/2 split or a 7/3 split, and neither period will count against the driver’s 14-hour driving window; 3) the adverse driving conditions exception was modified by extending it two hours as the maximum window during which driving is permitted; and 4) the short-haul exception, available to certain commercial drivers, was changed by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.
“The new hours-of-service changes show that FMCSA is listening to industry and fulfilling its duty to establish data-driven regulations that truly work,” commented TCA (Truckload Carriers Association) President John Lyboldt. “We especially thank the Agency for moving forward with added sleeper berth flexibility. While TCA and our members advocate for full flexibility in the sleeper berth for our drivers, FMCSA’s new regulations are one step closer to achieving that goal.”
“No rule will satisfy everyone, even within our industry, but this one – crafted with a tremendous amount of input and data – is a good example of how by working with stakeholders on all sides, government can craft a rule that simultaneously benefits the industry, specifically drivers, and maintains highway safety,” said American Trucking Associations Chairman Randy Guillot, who is also the president of New Orleans-based Triple G Express. “The agency should be commended for their efforts and we appreciate their willingness to listen throughout this process.”
Left out of the final rule was a provision that FMCSA had been considering that would have allowed one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than three hours, that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift. The 230-page final rule is scheduled to go into effect 120 days after it is finally published in the Federal Register. However, some road safety advocates have vowed to challenge the FMCSA’s changes in federal court, which could effectively delay the roll-out of these changes.
PARCEL AND LOCAL DELIVERY IS UP. Although the trucking industry in general is down, parcel and local delivery is up. This segment, formally known as couriers and messengers, added 1,800 jobs in April, making it the U.S. industry with the second-strongest job growth in April. Only seven “industries” posted any job growth at all, and two of those are the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. government. The slight job growth squares with the underlying dynamics of families having goods delivered that they otherwise would have bought in stores and businesses sending items to newly remote workers. Warehousing and storage is interesting because it was one of just a handful of industries that recorded significant job growth in March. The early stages of the COVID-19 crisis likely saw greater demand due to the depletion and restocking cycle for food and paper products. Since late March, though, demand has become a much greater issue. Some might have expected this sector to hold up better because of online purchasing, but while e-commerce probably has grown dramatically in the past couple months, it cannot offset the broader economic hit as more than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment. I think the new normal will be smaller companies with smaller trucks doing the Final Delivery business.
PATTERNS OF SAFETY VIOLATIONS. I want to remind everyone that the FMCSA amended its regulations to enable the Agency to suspend or revoke the operating authority of for-hire motor carriers that show egregious disregard for safety compliance, permit persons who have shown egregious disregard for safety compliance to exercise controlling influence of their operations, or operate multiple entities to conceal noncompliance of the safety regulations. These amendments implement section 4113 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), as amended by section 32112 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), and are designed to enhance the safety of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operations on our nation’s highways.
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