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The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is seeking public comment on revising four specific areas of current hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, which limit the operating hours of commercial truck drivers.

The upcoming Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), which will be published in the Federal Register, responds to widespread Congressional, industry, and citizen concerns and seeks feedback from the public to determine if HOS revisions may alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers while maintaining safety on our nation’s highways and roads, according to a news release. 

Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation director of congressional relations, said the proposal "recognizes the difficulties inherent in moving farm commodities and livestock, alike."

“We are grateful for this first step to consider options for flexibility in hours-of-service rules," said Walmsley. "Farm Bureau will continue to work with our partners in industry, FMCSA and Congress to find long-term solutions that address the unique needs of transporting agricultural products, the hauling of live animals in particular. It is imperative that we seek solutions that account not just for motorist safety, but the health and welfare of animals being transported, as well.”

The four specific areas under consideration for revision are:

  • Expanding the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers;
  • Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions;
  • Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after 8-hours of continuous driving; and
  • Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment.

In addition, the ANPRM seeks public comment and relevant data on two recently submitted petitions requesting regulatory relief from HOS rules (1) pertaining to the 14-hour on-duty limitation (filed by the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association) and (2) pertaining to the 10-hour off-duty requirement (filed by TruckerNation).

Earlier this year, the congressionally mandated electronic logging device (ELD) rule, which required most FMCSA-regulated motor carriers to convert their records from paper to an electronic format, became effective.

While compliance with the ELD rule has reached nearly 99 percent across the trucking industry, it has also brought focus to HOS regulations, especially with regard to certain regulations having a significant impact on agriculture and other sectors of trucking, according to the FMCSA news release. 

Additional information on the ANPRM, including how to submit comments to the Federal Register docket, is available here.

The comment period will be open for 30 days, as of Aug. 21.

Information on current HOS regulations is available here.

Information on electronic logging devices (ELDs) carried on-board long-haul trucks and used by commercial vehicle enforcement officers to check compliance with HOS regulations is available here.

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