The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has unveiled five proposed changes to existing hours of service (HOS) rules for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said the changes would give commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time.

The Truck Safety Coalition, however, called Chao’s characterization “a departure from reality.” In a statement on its website, the coalition demanded that the agency “produce compelling data to demonstrate that these changes will not lead to more health problems for truck drivers, more coercion of truck drivers, and more crashes involving trucks drivers operating while fatigued.”

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) said one of the changes – a three-hour break - could reduce traffic congestion, which costs the industry about $74 million a year.

FMCSA’s hours of service rules specify the permitted operating hours of commercial drivers. In 2018, FMCSA received more than 5,200 public comments in response to an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on the HOS rues.

The Agency is proposing five key changes: 

  1. The 30 minute break requirement will be tied to eight hours of driving time without an interruption for at least 30 minutes, and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on duty, not driving status, rather than off duty. 
  2. The sleeper-berth exception will be modified to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of not less than two consecutive hours, either off duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.
  3. One off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than three hours, would be allowed that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift.
  4. The adverse driving conditions exception would be modified to extend by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
  5. The agency proposes a change to the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on‑duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

The trucking industry employs more than seven million people and moves 70 percent of the nation’s domestic freight.

Comments sought

The FMCSA is seeking public comment on the proposed changes. The public comment period will be open for 45 days. 

The Federal Register Notice, including how to submit comments, is available here: