The FMCSA has tried to fine-tune the rule of hours of service (HOS) over the last several years, but it has repeatedly made news headlines with each change. A new rule on HOS will once again restructure how truckers can spend their time on their required 10-hour breaks. Truckers now have the option to split the 10-hour rule into a seven and three-hour break.
One of the biggest problems that the FMCSA found comes from how they can’t find a flexible enough schedule that works for truckers. This organization has sought to give truckers more flexible rules without increasing the accidents between cars and semi-trucks. The eight and two-hour break lets truckers have more flexibility. It loosens the restrictions related to the previously required 30-minute off-duty break.
When It Starts
The new HOS regulations begin on September 29, 2020. Don’t start practicing this rule before because you could still face the consequences of the FMCSA. One violation of the 14-hour rule adds seven points to the CSA score. The CSA score examines the overall safety, compliance, and accountability of a trucking company. Trucking companies with a higher CSA score receive more intense scrutiny, which equates to lost time and hefty trucking fines. The cost of trucking insurance goes up for companies with a higher CSA score.
What will Change with the New Law?
First, they will change how the law requires 30-minute breaks after eight hours of driving.
When confronted with adverse weather conditions, drivers can use an additional two hours of drive time. Short-haul truckers have also received an exception to the rule. They allow a 14-hour work shift without interruption.
The other change modifies the sleeper berth rule. Truckers can split their off duty break into 7 and 3 hours breaks, as long as the 7 hour break is taken in the sleeper. Total off-duty time must add up to 10 hours, the FMCSA won’t give truckers any problem.
Why Does the HOS Law Exist?
Legislature implemented the hours of service law to combat drowsy truckers behind the wheel. The FMSCA seeks to curb the fatality rate of tractor trailer accidence. Semi-truck accidents have a much higher risk of fatality and 5,000 people die in these crashes every year. Research shows the majority of drivers underestimate their sleepiness behind the wheel.
Backlash from Safety Groups
Several safety groups don’t like the new HOS rules. Parents against Tired Truckers, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Truck Safety Coalition, and the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways have all filed a petition against this new HOS law. They argue that it lengthens their workday and increases trucker fatigue. The safety groups drew up ten pages highlighting the new regulations’ concerns and their impact on safety.
They argue that American highways’ overall safety will suffer from the law known as “The Final Rule.”
Favor from Trucking Groups
The safety groups have raised alarm bells, but truckers and trucking associations, like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, have spoken in favor of the new HOS law. CEO Todd Spencer from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association gave a formal statement about how many of its members have expressed a strong dislike for the old HOS laws. It doesn’t align with the trucking industry. The lawmakers aren’t truckers. They implement inflexible laws that fail to grasp the big picture.
The previous law forced truckers to drive faster when behind schedule. Many truckers find themselves at the mercy of the shippers and the receivers who load and unload their trucks. Loading and unloading can consume hours each week. Truckers argued how the previous inflexible laws not only harmed productivity but they put truckers’ safety at risk.
Who Will Win: Trucking Companies or Safety Groups?
Since the FMSCA rejected the stay of implementation from safety groups, the new law will most likely come into practice on September 29. Certain things exist where you can never make everyone happy, but most in the know understand how the new law is necessary to make it easier for truckers. That could be why the safety petition failed. It was largely reviled by trucking groups and truckers that better understand the sector than safety groups.
Fewer Violations from HOS
Having a more flexible and understanding HOS law improves the number of egregious and unwarranted violations trucking companies face. HOS violations rank as the top fines issued to trucking companies. A HOS violation costs companies as much as $16,000 per violation. The problem drastically worsens for hazmat HOS violations, which cost $75,000 per violation. Truckers also faced the risk that they could lose their commercial license because of a violation. A stockpile of FMSCA fines can quickly put a trucking company underwater, and without the flexibility to the law, it makes it unfairly hard for truckers to follow through.
The FMSCA says that it wants to improve safety while keeping the industry in good standing. Poorly implemented laws from people who don’t fully understand the industry can damage the sector.
Race to Beat the Clock
With the previous HOS laws, truckers found themselves in a race to beat the clock. They had to drive faster for better take-home pay. That decreases safety. When someone in the know, such as those in the profession, talks about how a law reduces safety, somewhat improves it, people would be wise to listen. Truckers need to support their families, and they can’t do that with arbitrary and restrictive laws that harm productivity. None of the people making the laws are truckers themselves.
The Law Remains
While the FMSCA opens up the HOS law for greater flexibility, it remains firmly in place. The motor carrier still has a responsibility to record the driver’s time, and they have to maintain proof of how much time the driver works daily. They will still need to keep records of this from six months back.
During the COVID-19 crisis, the Trump administration briefly suspended the 82-year-old HOS law. This brief suspension happened for a couple of reasons that included:
- Keeping supplies on retailer shelves.
- Maintaining the medical supplies at hospitals.
- To keep food available in grocery stores.