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Trump Administration Considering More Changes to Federal Hours of Service Rules for Truck and 18 Wheeler Drivers

Texas Truck and 18-Wheeler Accident Lawyer | Truck Driver Fatigue Accident Lawyer

Weeks before a watered-down version of the Hours of Service Rules intended to prevent fatigue-related truck and 18-wheeler accidents take effect, the Trump administration proposed weakening the vital safety regulations even further.

FMCSA to Study 14-Hour Driving Window Pause

Late last week, the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requested public comments on a proposed Split Duty Period Pilot Program. Truckers who participate in the program would be allowed one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than three hours, during the 14-hour driving window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift.

Participation in the pilot program would be limited to a certain number of CDL holders who meet specified criteria. The program would run for three years and provide “statistically reliable evidence to analyze the safety and feasibility of such a modification to the hours of service rules.”

14-Hour Driving Window Pause Omitted from New Hours of Service Rules

The FMCSA had actually proposed allowing long-haul truckers and other interstate commercial drivers to pause the 14-hour driving window when it was considering changes to the Hours of Service Rules. But the provision was not included in the final rules, amid concern that drivers would be pressured by carriers, shippers, or receivers to use the break to cover detention time. That would obviously deny a driver the optimal conditions for restorative rest.

Under the pilot program proposed by the agency, the additional break of up to three hours must be off duty, so drivers presumably wouldn’t be working extra hours. The maximum amount of on-duty time that could be accumulated before a driver would be prohibited from driving during a work shift would remain at 14 hours.

“FMCSA wants to hear directly from drivers about the possibility and safety of an hours of service pause pilot program. The agency remains committed to exploring ways to improve safety on our roadways while increasing flexibility for truckers,” said Deputy Administrator Jim Mullen. “We encourage drivers, motor carriers, and interested citizens to review the proposed pilot program and provide substantive public comments for FMCSA to review.”

Weakened Hours of Service Rules Take Effect September 29th

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s weakened Hours of Service rules go into effect on September 29th.  The new regulations, which were finalized in May, alter four key regulatory provisions:

  • Modifies the 30-minute break rule to require a break after 8 hours of consecutive driving time (instead of on-duty time) and allows time on duty, but not driving, to qualify as the half-hour break.
  • Increases on-duty limits for short-haul operations from 12 to 14 hours and from 100 air-miles to 150
  • Extends the maximum driving window for adverse conditions by two hours.
  • Weakens the sleeper berth exception by allowing drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods.

While the administration contends that the new rules will give drivers more “flexibility” and reduce regulatory burdens by $273 million annually, critics fear the changes will only lead to more fatigue-related truck and 18-wheeler crashes.

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