By Jessica Domel
Multimedia Reporter

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is proposing changes to its hours-of-service requirements for truck drivers, and they’ll be in Dallas this week to discuss the proposal.

“On Friday, we’re going to be talking about the new notice of proposed rulemaking relating to hours-of-service,” Joe DeLorenzo, director of FMCSA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance, said in an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network. “That opportunity is going to be a chance for everyone to come together, share their ideas about what we’re proposing to help provide more information and shape what a final rule would look like relating to changing of the current hours-of-service rules.”

The listening session will be held from 10 a.m. to noon in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas.

The Great American Trucking Show will also be in the convention center at the time.

“It’s being done in association with that meeting, but anyone can attend,” DeLorenzo said. “There’s no particular registration ahead of time.”

The listening session will be livestreamed on FMCSA’s website: www.fmcsa.dot.gov.

The notice of proposed rulemaking will be published in the Federal Register today ahead of the listening session.

There are five different areas of change included in the notice.

The first change would allow the 30-minute break to be taken either on-duty time or on off-duty time.

“The point is, we want the driver to take a break–it’s only necessary after eight hours of driving–from the driving task and do some other things,” DeLorenzo said.

The second provision would allow drivers more flexibility under the adverse driving rule when they encounter an unexpected, unforeseeable event like a wreck or bad weather.

“It allows for them to have two extra hours in their duty day,” DeLorenzo said. “The current rule only allows two extra hours of driving, but this will allow them two additional hours in their duty day to give them a little more flexibility.”

Flexibility is a theme throughout the proposed changes to the hours-of-service requirements, DeLorenzo noted.

The third part of the proposal involves the “short haul.” Currently, there’s an exception for preparing a log book or having an electronic logging device (ELD) for drivers who operate within 100 air miles and start and finish at the same place within 12 hours.

“The proposal is to extend that to 14 hours and 150-mile radius,” DeLorenzo said.

The fourth and fifth parts to the proposal are related.

A current rule requires drivers to take a 10-hour break before operating the next duty day.

These two proposals allow a break in the 14-hour duty day.

The rule allows drivers with sleeper berths to split their 10 hours off duty into two periods: one with at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper and the other period of not less than two consecutive hours off-duty or in the sleeper. Neither period would count against the 14-hour driving window.

“(This is to) again allow them a little more flexibility to stop when they’re tired, maybe stop and wait out rush-hour traffic around the city for three hours, and then head on to the rest of their day and take their other seven later,” DeLorenzo said.

Drivers without a sleeper berth would be able to take up to three hours off-duty in the middle of the day and extend their 14 hours by that amount.

“For example, if they have some downtime where they get held up at a shipper, and they can go off-duty, they can take that time and use it to rest and get some other business taken care of,” DeLorenzo said.

That will allow the driver to continue their day and still have a full 14 hours to work with, followed by a 10-hour off-duty period.

Truck drivers are encouraged to comment on the proposal. A link will be available on the FMCSA website after the Federal Register notice is published.

“I don’t know that I could stress anymore the importance of everybody weighing in,” DeLorenzo said. “Certainly, scientific studies and data are important but also what’s important is the experience of a driver, the experience of a carrier, how these things impact them and what their suggestions are for moving forward. This is the last opportunity on hours-of-service with this rulemaking to weigh in and shape the changes to what the final rule might look like.”

DeLorenzo notes livestock haulers are still exempt from the ELD requirement, but they are required to abide by hours-of-service requirements and must still maintain a paper log book if an ELD is not in use.

A comment period on an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking relating to the transport of agricultural commodities closes Sept. 27. Comments may be submitted here.