News and Events
FMCSA Hours of Service RevisionJune 16, 2020TransportationJoseph PanateraRelated Practice Areas: Transportation
FMCSA HOURS OF SERVICE REVISION
On June 1, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revised the hours of service regulations. These amended regulations will become effective on September 29, 2020.
The FMCSA revised the hours of service regulations to provide greater flexibility for drivers without adversely affecting safety. The revised FMCSA regulation: (1) expands the short-haul exception to 150 air miles and allows a 14-hour work shift; (2) expands the driving window during adverse driving conditions by up to an additional 2 hours; (3) requires a 30 minute break after 8 hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time) and allows an on-duty/not-driving-period to qualify as the required break; and (4) modifies the sleeper berth exception to allow a driver to meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement by spending at least 7 hours, 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, provided the two periods total at least 10 hours, and that neither qualifying period counts against the 14-hour driving window.
These exceptions increase the short haul work shift from 12 hours to 14 hours. However, drivers are still limited to 11 hours of driving time and passenger carrier drivers to 10 hours of driving time. These exceptions also increase the driving window during adverse driving conditions to 16 hours for property carriers within which to complete 13 hours of driving or a duty period of up to 17 hours for passenger carriers within which to complete up to 12 hours of driving. This rule also modifies the definition of “Adverse Driving Conditions” to mean snow, ice, sleet, fog or other adverse weather conditions or unusual road or traffic conditions that were not known, or could not reasonably be known, to a driver immediately prior to beginning the duty day or immediately before beginning driving after a qualifying rest break or sleeper berth period, or to a motor carrier immediately prior to dispatching the driver. This definition includes reference to the driver because the driver should be involved in the decision-making, which should lessen the need for regulatory guidance to explain the role of the driver in determining when the adverse weather conditions are identified.
These exceptions require a 30 minute break if more than 8 consecutive hours of driving has passed without at least one 30 minute change in duty status. This allows any 30 minutes of non-driving time to qualify as a break such as on-duty not driving time, off-duty time, or sleeper berth time. This changes the current rule, which requires the 30 minute break to be off-duty time during which no work, including paperwork, may be performed, and is triggered after 8 hours of on-duty time, regardless of the time spent driving. The change allows the driver the flexibility to take a 30 minute break while completing paperwork, stoping for fuel, or waiting for loading and unloading. Finally, the sleeper berth change allows the driver the option to take 2 separate breaks, which total 10 hours. One of these breaks must include at least 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth. The second break must be at least 2 hours spent either in the berth or otherwise off-duty. The two qualifying periods or breaks must total at least 10 hours. When paired together, the two breaks do not count against the 14 hour driving window.
These changes can be found at 85 FR 33396 and will modify 49 CFR 385 and 49 CFR 395.
Hours of service rules are always a concern when representing a driver or trucking company in litigation. Attorneys representing a person injured in an accident with a tractor-trailer will pursue all avenues to attempt to direct blame at the truck driver and trucking company. One argument that is usually raised is the alleged or actual violation of the hours of service regulations. Attorneys attempt to argue that even minor hours of service violations indicate that the truck driver and trucking company are rule breakers, unsafe, and dangerous. The above modifications to the hours of service regulations should benefit truck drivers and trucking companies by making it more difficult for attorneys representing injured persons to allege that a driver or trucking company was potentially violating the more stringent current version of the hours of service requirements or that the alleged violation caused the accident at issue.