Federal transportation regulators released a long-anticipated proposal Thursday that would overhaul work rules for truck drivers, but the long-anticipated proposal puts off a decision on whether to lower driving time from the current 11 hours down to 10.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s decision to allow a minimum of at least 10 hours is a relief for many trucking companies that had worried the limit could go even lower. But the proposed rule also would require a 30-minute break after seven hours of driving and it would add a series of new wrinkles to the 34-hour “restart” provision, which allows driver duty time to resume following breaks.
The Department of Transportation agency said in introducing its 109-page notice of proposed rulemaking that the changes, along with other actions, “would result in a significant improvement in safety. We note as well that the proposed rule is intended to protect drivers from the serious health problems associated with excessively long work hours, without significantly compromising their ability to do their jobs and earn a living.”
The agency put off consideration of the most contentious in driver hours of service, or HOS, rule, saying in the notice it “currently favors a 10-hour limit” on driving time following 10 consecutive hours off. But it said in the notice the “ultimate decision will include a careful consideration of comments and any additional data received.”
Trucking companies have been bracing for a shift down to 10 hours, and many truckers and shippers have said privately they feared an administration seen as sympathetic to organized labor could take the HOS limit down to nine or even eight hours. That sort of cutback, logistics executives say, could trigger changes in supply chain networks to accommodate the tighter driving windows.
The proposed rule would retain a provision allowing the driver duty clock to resume after 34 hours off, but it also would a range of new restrictions on that off time and on how drivers may get back on the road following time off.
What the rule calls the standard “driving window” would still be 14 hours, and that could increase to 16 hours twice a week. But the requirement for 30-minute breaks would cut the actual on-duty time allowed in that window to 13 hours.
The DOT agency posted the rule on its Web site and said it would take affect after a 60-day comment period.