DOT Finalizes New Hours of Service Rules for Truck Drivers

Semi trucks are a vital tool on many grain operations ( MGN )

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a final rule on Thursday updating hours of service (HOS) rules to increase safety on America’s roadways by updating existing regulations for truck drivers.    

“America’s truckers are doing a heroic job keeping our supply chains open during this unprecedented time and these rules will provide them greater flexibility to keep America moving,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in a U.S. Department of Transportation release.

In August 2019, the Agency published a detailed proposed rule which received an additional 2,800 public comments. Based on the comments and input, FMCSA’s final rule on HOS offers four key revisions to the existing HOS rules: 

•    The Agency will increase safety and 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.

•    The Agency will modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 split, or a 7/3 split—with neither period counting against the driver’s 14 hour driving window.

•    The Agency will modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.

•    The Agency will change the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles. 

In comments on the proposed rule, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) had sought additional flexibility for livestock haulers who encountered unexpected, adverse driving conditions and the ability to divide the mandatory, 10 hours of rest into separate segments, among other recommendations. 

“NPPC supports the agency's final rule, which will be implemented 120 days after publication in the Federal Register,” NPPC said in its Capital Update on Friday.

Truckers have played a critical role in getting the U.S. through the COVID-19 public health emergency, the U.S. Department of Transportation said in a release. 

“FMCSA has provided regulatory relief to commercial drivers to get critically important medical supplies, food, and household goods to Americans in need. The nation’s truck drivers have been on the front lines of this effort and are vital to America’s supply chain,” the release said.

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