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FMCSARevisions_BlogHeaderOn Thursday, May 14, 2020 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released their long-awaited new hours of service (HOS) revisions. There are four key revisions to the existing HOS rules. The Agency will:

  1. Increase safety and flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by requiring a break after eight hours of consecutive driving, and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not driving status, rather than off-duty status. 
  2. Modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 split, or a 7/3 split-with neither period counting against the driver's 14-hour driving window. 
  3. Modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted. 
  4. Change 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.

These revisions came after nearly two years of waiting. The FMCSA shares that they drafted the Final Rule after consulting with more than 8,000 industry stakeholders, law enforcement officials, safety groups and truckers. The hope is that these rules will increase flexibility for U.S. truck drivers while continuing to maintain highway safety. The revision appears to be widely approved by drivers, despite the changes not including a rule that was heavily pushed for which would have allowed drivers to pause the 14-hour clock within which they must complete their driving before taking a 10-hour break. The FMCSA declined to approve this rule for safety reasons.

Impacts of COVID-19

Another pressing change in the industry was the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a response to this issue, the FMCSA enacted relief from HOS restrictions by releasing an emergency declaration on March 13, 2020. This declaration for COVID-19, which was congruent to the state of emergency declared by the President of the United States, stipulated relief from HOS restrictions for drivers who are providing direct assistance in support of emergency efforts, including moving medical equipment, hand sanitizer, food and more. It grants exemption from Parts 390 to 399, which cover HOS, parts and accessories needed for safe operation, and longer combination vehicles. The emergency declaration has currently been extended through July 14, 2020, but has excluded grocery restocking, fuel and precursor raw materials from the extension.

Fatigue Concerns

Both the HOS revisions and the emergency exemptions were put in place to help drivers, but some are questioning whether these new changes will actually put them in danger. These measures, although intended to help the economy and provide further autonomy for drivers, could have unintended consequences on the safety of our roads. These changes are extending the lengths of time that individuals are driving consecutively, which could cause unnecessary fatigue. Many feel this is cause for concern.

With more hours driving and fewer hours resting, fatigue could play a major problem in the fleet industry. According to research done by the National Safety Council, a driver is three times more likely to be in a crash if they are fatigued, making it crucial that they are equipped to recognize the warning signs and how to act on them. Drivers should ask themselves these questions to determine if they are too fatigued to continue:

  • Is your speed fluctuating? 
  • Are you driving slowly in the high speed lane?
  • Are you changing lanes frequently for no apparent reason?
  • Did you forget to turn off the signal from your last lane change?
  • Can you remember the last mile you drove, mile marker you passed or color of the last warning sign you passed?
  • Are you driving on the white roadway striping lines? 
  • Do you need to roll down your window for fresh air?
  • Are oncoming headlights bothering you?
  • Are you constantly shifting in your seat?
  • Are you unable to focus clearly?
  • Do you need caffeine or other stimulants to keep you alert?

If drivers begin to feel tired or fatigued, they should pull off the road as soon and as safely as possible and take a nap in a safe, legal area.

  • Categorized in:
  • Transportation Safety
  • Injury Prevention
  • Driving Techniques