Federal Update
OOIDA petitions for ‘common sense’ changes to revised HOS

By Jami Jones
staff editor

Ten days after the revised rule was announced, OOIDA filed a petition asking the government to reconsider the revised hours-of-service regulations.

Despite FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg’s downplaying of the changes in the revised regs, OOIDA has identified two specific changes that will have a significant impact on truckers and their operations.

“We’re filing for two common sense changes to the new hours of service,” said OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston.

The revised rules are set up in a way that if a trucker chooses to split up the required 10 hours of off-duty time, one of the two periods must be at least eight hours. That eight-hour rest period stops the 14-hour on-duty clock. The other two off-duty hours can be taken at another time - either in the sleeper or out - to fulfill the 10-hour off-duty requirement, but they do not stop the 14-hour clock.

FMCSA stressed the importance of the two-hour portion of the split-sleeper berth provision in its rulemaking.

“The second period will allow a driver to have time for a nap or rest break or provide an opportunity to attend to personal matters. The opportunity to take a nap later in the day is an important benefit,” the rulemaking states.

Elsewhere in the rulemaking, naps and rest breaks are called “an important tool in combating fatigue and the FMCSA encourages their use.”

Despite the encouragement in the rulemaking for truckers to cash in the opportunity for a nap or short rest period, the fact that the two-hour break does not stop the 14-hour clock is a disincentive for truckers to utilize the break, according to OOIDA’s request for reconsideration, which was filed Aug. 29.

“We’re simply asking that those two hours would also stop the clock, that the driver could take those off-duty and not count against his working time,” Johnston said. “We think it’s common sense because it’s consistent with the 10-hour off-duty requirement.”

Johnston pointed out that allowing truckers to take a two-hour midday break to tend to personal affairs - eating, showering, etc. - is totally consistent with the rest of the regulation and should not count against the 14-hour on-duty clock.

“We think it’s practical and makes plain common sense to do it that way,” Johnston said.

The other change OOIDA will petition for involves split sleeper-berth provisions for team drivers.

Under the new HOS regulations, team drivers would have to take a minimum of eight consecutive hours off in the sleeper berth.

“That’s impractical for most team operations,” Johnston said. “We’re asking in our petition that the DOT retain the current sleeper-berth exemption for teams, which allows the drivers to take sleeper-berth time in whatever increments they want, as long as no period is less than two hours.”

OOIDA contends that FMCSA’s abandonment of the sleeper-berth rules, at least as far as team drivers go, was based in part on the assumption that a schedule, such as the one where the driver goes on duty for five hours and then off duty for five hours, only gives a driver a five-hour window of opportunity to obtain rest.

“This is simply not the case with team drivers,” OOIDA’s petition states. “Often the period of a driver’s rest is a combination of the length of the other (team) driver’s driving period plus that other driver’s breaks to take care of business.”

FMCSA announced the revised rules on Aug. 19, but did not publish them in the Federal Register until Aug. 25.

The public - individuals and groups alike - had 30 days to petition for reconsideration or a redraft of the final rule.

The revised hours-of-service regulations go into effect Oct. 1, but federal officials have said that there will be a transitional period until Dec. 31 to allow the industry to make adjustments to the revised regs.