In May, the FMCSA issued its long-awaited hours-of-service final rule, which made four significant revisions to the agency's hours-of-service rules in Part 395 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). The revisions take effect today, September 29, 2020, and include:
Modifying the existing 30-minute rest break requirement such that a break is only required after a driver accumulates 8 hours of drive time (as opposed to on-duty time), and allowing the break to be satisfied by on-duty (not driving) time in addition to off-duty time.
Lengthening the maximum on-duty period and air-mile radius for the CDL short-haul exemption to 14 hours and 150 air-miles, respectively.
Modifying the adverse driving condition exception to extend by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
Allowing drivers who take advantage of the split-sleeper-berth exception to split their required 10-hour off-duty period into two periods of 7 hours (sleeper berth) and 3 hours (sleeper berth or off-duty), and counting neither period against the driver's 14-hour driving window.
Absent from the final rule was the originally-proposed revision that would have allowed drivers to pause their 14-hour driving window with one off-duty break of between 30 minutes and 3 hours; however, as previously noted, the FMCSA recently issued notice of a proposed pilot program that would allow a limited number of drivers to take advantage of that 14-hour pause, so that the agency can study the potential impact of that allowance on commercial vehicle safety.
These changes take effect despite efforts by safety advocates and the Teamsters to derail them. Earlier this year, those groups petitioned the FMCSA to reconsider the final rule on the basis that the changes would contribute to driver fatigue, but the FMCSA denied that request in August. Then, on September 16, the groups filed a Petition for Review with the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, asking the court to overturn the agency's decision and final rule. Despite this legal challenge, the rule changes are now in effect and will remain so unless and until the court issues an injunction, which seems unlikely at this point.