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U.S. DOT Finalizes New Hours of Service Rules

First adopted in 1937, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Service (FMCSA) hours of service rules specify the permitted operating hours of commercial drivers. In 2018, FMCSA authored an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to receive public comment on portions of the HOS rules to alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers while maintaining safety on our nation’s highways and roads.  Subsequently, in August 2019, the Agency published a detailed proposed rule.

FMCSA’s final rule on hours of service offers four key revisions to the existing HOS rules:

  • The Agency will increase flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by requiring a break after 8 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.
  • The Agency will 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.
  • The Agency will modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
  • The Agency will 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.

The decision to increase the air-mile radius to 150 miles is particularly important for agricultural products that are ineligible for the agricultural exemption to the hours-of-service rules, such as processed products like soybean meal, distillers grains and flour.

The new hours of service rule will have an implementation date of 120 days after publication in the Federal Register (published on May 14, 2020).

The complete final rule is available here.