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FMCSA Issues Final Rule on Truckers’ Hours of Service

FMCSA announces final revision to trucker hours of service rules

On May 14, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the federal Department of Transportation (DOT), announced four regulatory changes. These revisions are meant to provide truck drivers with greater flexibility while preserving the safety of commercial truck operators, manufacturers, and retailers. FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen stated that the changes were based on thousands of suggestions from drivers and other trucking industry members and comments from the public over the last two years. The agency predicts that these amendments will provide $274 million in annualized cost savings.

What Do the FMSCA Revisions Change?

The FMCSA revisions make the following changes to Hours of Service (HOS) regulations:

Expansion of the “Short-Haul” Exception: The FMCSA imposes tracking, reporting, and other requirements for commercial truck drivers, but exempts drivers who do not exceed certain driving and on-duty hours maximums under a “short-haul” exception. The new FMCSA regulations expand the short-haul exception requirements. The maximum driving distance changed from 100 to 150 air-miles and the maximum on-duty period changed from 12 to 14 hours.

Extension of the Adverse Driving Conditions Window: Truckers facing adverse driving conditions will now be permitted to extend their maximum driving windows by an additional 2 hours. This change applies to both property-carrying and passenger-carrying Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) drivers. The FMCSA anticipates that this change will decrease crash risks because the new regulations allow drivers time to park and wait out adverse driving conditions or to drive slowly through them.

Changes to Driving Break Requirements: Under the previous FMCSA regulations, a truck driver who had been on-duty for more than 8 consecutive hours was required to take a break of at least 30 minutes. The amended rule requires a 30-minute break only when a driver was actually driving for 8 hours straight. The break may now be satisfied by any non-driving period of 30 minutes, including on-duty, off-duty, or sleeper-berth status breaks. The FMCSA predicts that this may enable drivers to reach their destinations more quickly.

Adjustments to Mandatory Sleeper-Berth Periods: The final regulatory change modifies the sleeper-berth requirements. Drivers may now meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement by spending at least 7, rather than at least 8 hours of that period in the berth and a minimum off-duty period of at least 2 hours spent inside or outside of the berth. The FMCSA explained that this benefits truck drivers by allowing them to shift one hour from their longer rest period to their shorter rest period.

Will Accidents Caused By Fatigued Driving Increase Under the New FMCSA Regulations?

In recent years, research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the American Automobile Association, and others has exposed the dangers of fatigued driving by tractor-trailer operators. The FMCSA responded to the staggering accident and death rates that these studies detail by implementing regulations designed to limit truck driver fatigue.

But do the new amendments represent a step in the wrong direction?

The agency dismissed concerns that the expanded driving maximums and changes to break requirements will increase instances of driver fatigue. According to the FMCSA, this is because “drivers continue to be constrained by the 11-hour driving limit.” The effects of these changes remain to be seen, but it is our hope that these rules and their enforcement will contribute to improving highway safety.

Representing truckers and the driving public in truck crash cases

Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys truck accident attorneys have dedicated their careers to helping victims and their families recover for the losses, pain, and suffering caused by truck accidents. We also know that long-haul trucking is a dangerous job and truck drivers face a high risk of crash-related injuries. This is why we have always followed very closely the developments and changes to truck industry regulations and have been vocal proponents of measures designed to keep truckers and the driving public safe on the roads. Our in-depth knowledge of industry regulations makes the difference when taking on a truck accident case. If you or someone who know was in a collision, don’t wait–schedule your free consultation today.

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