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New HOS Rules Will Take Effect in Sept. 2020

New HOS Rules Will Take Effect in Sept. 2020

Modernizing the Rules Offers More Flexibility, Nearly $274M in Savings Over 10 Years

On Sept. 29, 2020, revised hours of service (HOS) regulations will go into effect, changing a handful of requirements for truckers and other commercial drivers. The updated HOS rules, published in June 2020, are geared toward providing commercial drivers with greater flexibility while promoting “the highest safety standards on our Nation’s roads.”

While the cost of implementation at the state and federal levels is expected to be about $8.6 million, experts say that the revised rules could result in nearly $274 million in savings to the U.S. economy over the next decade.

Modernizing HOS Rules: 4 Changes Coming in Fall 2020

For more than two years, officials at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) worked with industry experts, safety advocates, legislators, and the American public to update current hours-of-service regulations in a way that would enhance driver flexibility without degrading safety.

After much consideration, discussion, and debate, regulators enacted the following four HOS rule updates.

1. Short-Haul Exception

This provision expands two aspects of HOS regulations for short hauls:

  • The hours in a workday: Short-haul truckers can extend their workday by two hours, increasing the maximum workable hours from 12 to 14 hours.

  • The official description of a short haul: This has been updated to cover hauls within a 150 air-mile radius (AMR), rather than the 100 AMR outlined in previous HOS regulations.

2. Adverse Driving Conditions Provision

Commercial drivers are already provided an extra two hours of driving time when they encounter adverse conditions. Under the revised hours-of-service rules, the on-duty time in a shift will be extended by another two hours, effectively providing:

  • 4 additional hours, as part of the adverse driving conditions exception
  • A 14-hour driving window for commercial drivers hauling property
  • A 15-hour on-duty cap for commercial drivers transporting passengers

3. 30-Minute Break Requirement

With this HOS rule change, drivers will have more leeway in how they satisfy their break requirements. They will be able to take their required 30-minute break while they are on duty but not driving, as long as they also satisfy their off-duty break requirement.

Cargo-hauling drivers can take advantage of this new rule when they have driven for 8 hours without any interruptions of at least 30 minutes.

4. Sleeper Berth Provision

This update lets drivers break up their 10 hours of off-duty time however they see fit, as long as:

  • One off-duty period is at least 2 hours long, regardless of whether a driver spends time in the sleeper berth.
  • The driver spends at least one off-duty period of 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth (formerly, 8 hours were required).
  • The two off-duty periods total 10 hours.
  • Neither off-duty period counts against the 14-hour driving cap.

Will the Updated HOS Rules Extend Driving Time?

No, the new HOS regulations are not expected to increase the driving time caps. They may, however, impact the number of on-duty or driving hours in a given shift. That’s because the new rules empower drivers to:

  • Adjust their on-duty and driving time to respond to variables like weather and traffic
  • Take breaks without penalty when they need rest

These changes, experts say, are not expected to adversely impact drivers’ health.

Who is Impacted by the HOS Rule Changes?

Regulators say that most commercial drivers will be affected by the new changes. Specifically, the updated HOS rules will impact drivers of vehicles that:

  • Weigh or have a gross vehicle weight rating of at least 10,001 pounds
  • Are used or designed to carry at least 9 passengers (driver included) for compensation or 16 passengers (driver included) not for compensation
  • Require placards to transport hazardous materials

To help owner-operators (OO) and motor carriers understand the HOS rule updates, the FMCSA has put together this PowerPoint presentation and this  HOS webinar (both currently available for download).

Will the New HOS Rules Affect Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs)?

If ELDs are equipped with an add-on feature that tracks HOS violations, yes, the rule changes will impact these devices, and they will need to be updated by the provider to avoid reporting “false” violations.

It’s important to note that ELDs not equipped with the add-on HOS violation feature will likely not be affected by the recent regulation changes.

What Effect Will the New HOS Rules Have on Truckers & the Trucking Industry?

Industry experts anticipate that the hours-of-service rule changes will give commercial drivers and motor carriers new tools, discretion, and power to:

  • Manage fatigue by stopping the clock on their on-duty time when they need to recharge
  • Work smarter and safer by adjusting their driving time and behaviors to account for uncontrollable factors, like weather and traffic conditions

While the impacts of the updated HOS rules may not be apparent until the end of 2020 (at the earliest), many are hopeful that these changes can help reduce truck wrecks caused by driver fatigue while enhancing roadway safety for all travelers.


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