FMCSA “Remains Hopeful” Newly Proposed HOS Rule Coming Next Week
Washington D.C. – The countdown to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) highly anticipated announcement of the newly proposed hours of service (HOS) rule is in its final days.
FMCSA confirmed to Transportation Nation Network (TNN) earlier this month that the agency set a goal to publish the newly proposed rule on HOS reform in the Federal Register on June 7.
Now only a week away from its target date, the agency told TNN this week it “remains hopeful that goal will be achieved.”
“Hopeful” is indeed the key word.
Not only is the agency hopeful to meet its goal, trucking industry stakeholders anxiously awaiting the agency’s proposed reform are also “hopeful.”
Will FMCSA Get It Right This Time?
Has the agency sufficiently listened to the voices of America’s hard working truck drivers and small business owners? It’s a good question.
Throughout the entire rulemaking process FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez has stressed the agency’s intention to diligently and thoughtfully consider the concerns of the men and women who are behind-the-wheel every day keeping America moving.
TNN has reported extensively on the rulemaking process and those who have been engaged with FMCSA each step of the way.
Leaders from grassroots trucking groups like TruckerNation and the United States Transportation Alliance (USTA) have met with agency leaders on multiple occasions throughout the process and report to TNN they believe the agency is working in good faith.
“FMCSA can’t afford to get HOS reform wrong,” Andrea Marks, Director of Communication for TruckerNation, told TNN earlier this year.
Other trucking stakeholders like the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) have also been in close contact with agency officials and report to TNN they too believe there is good reason to be optimistic this time around.
Dave Heller, TCA’s V.P. of Government Affairs, recently told TNN, “I believe Administrator Martinez and his staff have truly made an effort to go above and beyond any previous administrators that have served in this same position.”
Give Us Flexibility!
“Give us flexibility!” has been the rallying cry among many trucking industry stakeholders.
“The most important issue to TCA, when it comes to HOS reforms, would have to be incorporating flexibility into the sleeper berth provisions of the rule,” TCA’s Heller said.
He argued that because drivers are under increasing pressures such as detention time, congestion, weather or even finding safe truck parking, the need to provide flexibility is of “paramount” importance.
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“I believe this industry, in particular the truckload segment, would reap the benefits of flexibility in the manner of reduction in accidents, lower traveling speeds, and quite frankly, allow for a driver to adapt to a comfort level on the roads that they see fit,” Heller said.
Marks agreed and told TNN she expects the proposed rule to look a lot like the petition filed by TruckerNation.
“Based on some of the feedback we received from FMCSA, I’m very confident we will see something that closely resembles the TruckerNation petition,” she said.
TruckerNation’s petition asks FMCSA to “allow for a split in the 10-hour break as many time(s) necessary at the driver’s discretion and with a minimum of 3 consecutive hours for any break time, to equal 10 total hours of break time, so long as the time is accurately logged as off-duty.”
Additionally, the petition asks for the flexibility to subtract any 3-consecutive hour off duty breaks from the driver’s required 10-hour off duty break each day.
David Owen, president of the National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC), told TNN what his hopes are.
“It would be a good year if they would stop at automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRD) and do away with the 30-minute break to let drivers manage their own risks. You would see accidents, fatalities and property damage go way down,” Owens contended.
No one we have interviewed, who has had direct meetings with FMCSA officials, believe the 14-hour day will be extended.
However, the consensus among those we have interviewed is they believe the 30-minute rest break will be eliminated.
When TNN asked about the specifics of the soon-to-be-published proposed rule, a spokesperson for FMCSA would only say it is intended to provide “needed flexibility to commercial drivers while maintaining the highest level of safety on America’s roadways.”
While optimism is the outlook for some, others in the grassroots driving community take a more cautious, and even pessimistic view, fearing the agency will simply do the bidding of larger stakeholders like ATA and TCA.
In a speech in March at TCA’s annual convention, Administrator Martinez seemed to lower the bar of expectations. “I know that we are not going to make everybody happy… this is one of those fine lines we have to walk,” he said.
Assuming the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) completes its review in time for the FMCSA to publish the proposed rule next week, we will all soon finally find out what that “fine line” looks like.
What Happens After The Proposed Rule Is Published?
Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, the agency will provide a public comment period which historically has been 60-90 days.
However, according to an April DOT briefing, the scheduled public comment period will conclude on July 26, 2019, which is only 49 days.
Based on sources TNN has spoken with, it is likely that petitions for extensions will be filed.
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