One of the most despised trucking laws is set to get an overhaul.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which oversees all of America’s commercial drivers, including its 1.8 million long-haul truckers, announced on Wednesday that it would modify its hours-of-service rules, which have been in place since 1937.
The HOS rules were easy to flout, but they’ve been more rigorously enforced by electronic-logging devices that became required in every truck driver’s cabin. The devices are designed to ensure that truckers don’t drive for more than 11 hours a day, that they work a maximum of 14 hours a day, and that they take regular breaks.
The FMCSA estimated in 2014 that requiring ELDs to enforce HOS rules could prevent up to 1,714 crashes, 522 injuries, and 24 deaths each year. But dozens of truck drivers have told Business Insider since the ELD mandate came into enforcement that the rules have had the opposite effect.
Steve Manley, 52, a veteran truck driver in Nashville, Tennessee, told Business Insider last spring that the ELD mandate lowered his pay and made his job more unsafe.
“The electronic logs are supposed to make it safer, but really it has created a hazardous race to beat the clock,” Manley said. “Drivers are now more reckless than ever trying to make it to their destination before the clock runs out with the mandatory breaks and such.”
Here’s what’s set to change
The FMCSA said that more than 5,200 public comments had opined to the agency about what needed to change in the HOS law.
“We listened directly to the concerns of drivers for rules that are safer and have more flexibility — and we have acted,” the FMCSA administrator, Raymond Martinez, said in a statement. “We encourage everyone to review and comment on this proposal.”
Five measures are part of the proposed rulemaking to change the HOS rules, per an FMCSA press release:
- Truckers could use their 30-minute break when they are on duty but not driving — such as if they are waiting at warehouses for a shipment but still technically on duty. Previously, truckers would have to go “off duty.” This would “increase safety and flexibility,” the agency said.
- Truck drivers would be allowed to split up their 10-hour off-duty time into at least seven consecutive hours in their sleeper berth and two consecutive hours off duty or in their sleeper berth, rather than having a full 10-hour break.
- An off-duty break of 30 minutes to three hours would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window, as long as the trucker takes 10 full hours off duty at the end of their shift.
- Under adverse driving conditions, the 14-hour window could be extended by two hours.
- For short-haul truckers, the maximum on-duty period could be extended to 14 hours from 12 and the distance limit to 150 miles from 100.
The FMCSA estimated that these changes would save $274 million across the US economy.
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