The Hours of Service (HOS) regulations for truckers have been changed to give drivers greater flexibility and control in determining when it is safe to drive. HOS rules determine the maximum number of hours a trucker can be on the road until he or she is legally required to rest. The regulations are aimed at ensuring truckers can drive without becoming dangerously fatigued.
Changes Made to the HOS Regulations
Changes to the HOS regulations went into effect on September 29, 2020. They include:
Short-Haul Exception: The short-haul distance the driver may operate has been expanded from 100 air-miles to 150 air-miles. The work shift will increase from 12 hours to 14 hours.
Adverse Driving Conditions Exception: Truckers can drive up to two additional hours when adverse driving conditions are encountered.
30-Minute Break Requirement: Rest breaks will now be required after 8 cumulative hours of driving time instead of 8 hours of on-duty time. Periods where the driver is on-duty but not driving will qualify as the required break.
Sleeper Berth Provision: Allows drivers to meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty period by spending at least 7 hours in the sleeper berth in combination with an off-duty period of at least 2 hours. In addition to an 8/2 split, drivers now have an option for a 7/3 or 7.5/2.5 split.
The HOS Regulations Are Dangerous
The HOS rules are based on decades of thorough study into how long truck drivers can drive without becoming fatigued. However, the new rules do not prioritize safety enough. They give leeway for companies to push truckers beyond reasonable limits. In June, several organizations joined to petition the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to reconsider the changes. They argued that allowing the HOS regulations to be too lax will endanger the lives of truckers and the citizens with whom the roads are shared.
While the changes increase the likelihood of truck accidents, the lax rule about driving in adverse conditions is likely the worst change. Driving during adverse weather conditions can prove to be dangerous and even life-threatening. It can also be extremely stressful and draining for truckers, which can lead to fatigue and the risk of making a mistake behind the wheel. Additionally, adding new sleeper split options complicates what should be a simple requirement for 10-hour rest breaks.