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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Issues Final Rule on Driver’s Hours of Service

By: Amy Agnew

After almost two years, on May 14, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) issued its long-awaited final rule on driver’s hours of service regulations. The regulations apply to drivers of commercial motor vehicles. According to the FMCSA, it revised the hours of service regulations to provide greater flexibility for commercial drivers, maintain safety, and provide a reduction in costs to motor carriers. 

The four main changes to the hours of service regulations were in response to the implementation of the electronic logging device rule created in December of 2015.  Drivers and companies requested that the FMCSA consider revising the hours of service regulations to provide greater flexibility, in light of the electronic logging device rule.

First, the final rule extends the maximum allowable driving time under 49 CFR 395.1(e)(1), the short haul exception, from twelve consecutive hours to fourteen hours.  Additionally, the final rule extends the maximum radius to travel from 100 air-miles to 150 air-miles for the short haul exception. 

Second, Section 395.3(a)(2), covering the maximum driving time for property-carrying vehicles, and Section 395.5(a)(2), covering the maximum driving time for passenger-carrying vehicles, also received modifications under the final rule.  The final rule expands the definition of adverse driving conditions so that this exception may be applied to these sections based upon the driver’s knowledge of the conditions after being dispatched, as well as the dispatcher’s knowledge of adverse driving conditions.  Also, the driving time for the adverse driving condition exception is extended up to two additional hours.

Third, the final rule states the thirty-minute break requirement for drivers of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles, pursuant to 49 CFR 395.3(a)(3)(iii), is applicable only when a driver has driven for a period of eight hours without at least a thirty-minute, non-driving interruption.  This change applies to times when a driver has actually driven instead of just being on-duty.  Additionally, the driver’s break can be any non-driving period of thirty minutes, including on-duty time or off-duty time.

Fourth, the final rule modifies the sleeper berth requirements for commercial motor vehicle drivers.  It allows drivers to take their required ten hours off-duty in two periods, with one of the off-duty periods lasting at least two hours long, and can occur in or out of the sleeper berth.  Also, the other off-duty period must be at least seven consecutive hours spent in the sleeper berth.  Neither of the two off-duty periods will count against the maximum fourteen-hour driving window set forth in 49 CFR 395.3(a)(2). 

However, the changes set forth in the final rule do not increase the maximum allowable driving time. The final rule also does not contain the FMCSA’s proposal to allow a single off-duty period of up to three hours to be excluded from the fourteen-hour driving window.