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Drive Time Changes

“Drive time” can refer to the length of time it takes to get somewhere (I can already hear my toddler whining “are we there yet?”), a popular sports-talk radio show in Arkansas (the southern drawl of the callers-in undeniably exhorting that Malzahn lucked out from that shoulda-been fumble), or, in trucking circles, an aspect of the ever-present and ever-confusing Hours of Service rules.

On September 29, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration made four categories of changes effective.  So, what’s changed?

The Short-Haul Exception.  The change expanded the short-haul exception to 150 air-miles from 100 air-miles and allows a 14-hour work shift to take place as part of the exception, rather than 12 hours.

The Adverse Driving Conditions Exception.  The change allows property carrying drivers an 11 hour driving limit and a 14 hour driving window and a passenger carrying driver a 10 hour driving limit and a 15 hour on duty limit, which essentially extends the two hour extension to both the driving limit and the on-duty limit.  When using the adverse driving condition exception, drivers of property can drive up to 13 hours within a 16 hour driving window.  Drivers of passengers can drive up to 12 hours within a 17 hour on duty period.  Additionally, the definition of “adverse driving condition” has expanded to include “a driver immediately prior to beginning the duty day or immediately before beginning driving after a qualifying rest break or sleeper berth period, or a motor carrier immediately prior to dispatching the driver.”  

The 30-Minute Break Requirement.  The change requires a 30 minute break after eight hours of driving.  The break is satisfied by off-duty time, time in the sleeper berth, or on-duty, not driving time.  The 30-minutes can be a combination of any of the foregoing activities, but must be consecutive.

The Sleeper Berth Provision.  The change allows property carrying drivers to split their 10 hour off-duty period so long as: 1) one off-duty period is at least two hours long; 2) the other involves at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth; 3) both periods total at least ten hours; 4) neither time counts against the 14 hour driving window; and 5) an 8 hour sleeper berth period alone cannot be excluded from the 14 hour driving window.

For additional insight on these changes, please find the FMCSA fact sheets here: https://www.cnsprotects.com/wp-content/uploads/All_HOS_Fact_Sheets_508.pdf.

  The changes aim to allow more flexibility and the final rule is the result of proposed rule-making protocols, including over 8,000 public comments.  On June 30, 2020, approximately three months before the effective date of the changes, a group of safety organizations, including the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, filed a petition  for reconsideration with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to reconsider the final rule on hours of service changes.  The petition initially sought delay of the effective date and suggested the proposed changes created the potential for greater driver fatigue.  The petition was rejected and the group filed a petition for review with the U.S. Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit on September 16, 2020, which can be viewed here: https://landline.media/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/9.16-HOS-Petition-for-Review.pdf.  

In addition to concerns regarding fatigued driving, in monitoring these changes, the rumble on the road is that electronic logging device software has not necessarily kept up with the changes, particularly the 30-minute break requirement.  The gist of the online community’s concern is that the ELDs are not properly registering the new mandatory 30-minute break after eight hours of being on duty.  These glitches are requiring work-arounds, patches, and safety-departments to correct logs.

As new changes take effect, the same old considerations apply – train drivers to stay alert and stop for a break if feeling fatigued.  Just because you CAN extend drive times doesn’t mean you SHOULD.  Be aware of weather conditions, particularly as fall is upon us.  Advise dispatchers to route drivers accordingly.  Document any logging discrepancies, any changes that are made, and why.  Comments/notes sections are available on ELD programs for a reason. Practice those tried and true safety habits and keep claims and litigation at bay.

For questions or assistance with hours of service or FMCSA compliance, please feel free to contact Amy Tracy (atracy@setlifflaw.com) at 804-377-1264 or Steve Setliff (ssetliff@setlifflaw.com) at 804-377-1261. 

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