The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration opened a 30-day comment period Tuesday for drivers and carriers to lobby for changes in hours-of-service rules some claim hurt their business.
“It’s been 15 years since we last looked at hours of service. And there’s been great changes in how trucking moves on the roadways,” FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said in a media briefing announcing an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
The advanced rulemaking proposal will be published in the Federal Register and comments can be submitted in writing.
“It’s time we have an honest conversation on the hours-of-service rule,” Martinez said.
The hours-of-service rule limits a driver to 11 hours behind the wheel in a 14-hour period. Several other restrictions are also part of the rule.
Martinez became the truck safety agency’s top executive in March. He said he has conducted listening sessions and met with drivers, carriers and other industry stakeholders.
The trucking industry faces pressure for faster delivery of goods because services like Amazon Prime guarantee two-day delivery. A shortage of drivers and mechanics, and a new rule requiring drivers to electronically record their hours driven, all were issues raised with Martinez.
“We want to see what kind of interest is out there,” he said. “There is no guarantee that we move forward.”
The four specific areas considered for revision are:
- Expanding the current “short-haul” exemption from 12 to 14 hours to mirror rules for long-haul drivers.
- Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limit by up to two hours because of adverse driving conditions.
- Changing or eliminating the 30-minute break required after eight hours of continuous driving.
- Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for trucks equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment.
“We’re looking for the industry to come back to us,” Martinez said. “We know that they have a lot of data. A lot of folks have information that could help inform the FMCSA if or how to move forward.”
The FMCSA received hours-of-service reform petitions from four trucking groups, including the 161,000-member Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
“The agency is finally listening and the door is open for truckers to make their voices heard and spur real, common-sense changes to match the realities of freight movement,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said.
The American Trucking Associations also supported the safety agency’s action.
“While today’s notice is just the first step, ATA stands ready to work with drivers and motor carriers to provide information to improve the safety of our highways and the efficiency of our industry,” ATA Chief Executive Chris Spear said.
Martinez said four public sessions will be held. The first is August 24 at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.