The hours of service (HOS) rules govern the amount of time drivers of commercial vehicles can spend on the road and is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These rules are intended to prevent accidents by minimizing fatigue primarily targeting long-haul drivers.

The new rules will take effect September 29th. They intend to give greater flexibility while still addressing safety. 

There are four critical changes:

  • expanding the short-haul exemption
  • expanding the driving window during adverse driving conditions
  • modifying the 30-minute break time requirement
  • modifying the sleeper berth exception

Two of these rules directly benefit construction contractors, expanding the short-haul exemption from 100 to 150 air miles, and counting non-driving activities toward the 30-minute rest requirement. 

These changes will particularly help for deploying drivers who end up waiting in long lines to load and unload equipment.

Modification of the 30 minute break

FMCSA now requires a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time) and allows an on-duty/not driving period to qualify as the required break. For short-haul work the 30-minute break therefore would very rarely apply since “in attendance” time may be included in the break if no other duties are performed.

Driving time in Adverse Conditions Extended

Up to two additional hours have been added to the driving window in adverse conditions. The HOS rules currently define adverse conditions as: snow, sleet, fog, other adverse weather conditions, a highway covered with snow or ice, or unusual road and traffic conditions. These factors may not be known to the dispatcher at the time the run is begun. 

FMCSA says that in the event of unanticipated conditions, adding time to the duty day in adverse conditions allows drives to reduce speed or delay operations makes drivers and roads safer.

“This is one of the biggest changes to the rules that we have seen in some time,” says Nick Goldstein, vice president, regulatory and legal issues, American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). “FMCSA reached out. This has been a multi-year project on their part. They have conducted listening sessions, public comment sessions.” The rules were created with input from the regulated community.*

ARTBA has advocated for these changes in order to address situations where rules intended for long-haul drivers were also applied to short-haul drivers. Because the working realities were so different, some of the restrictions created an unnecessary burden and limited flexibility for the industry. 

“The revisions will help transportation construction contractors deploy project personnel more efficiently, saving time and costs while maintaining high standards for safety,” says Dave Bauer, ARTBA president and CEO. “These updates are especially needed for transportation construction to play a crucial role in our nation’s economic recovery.*

Finding the right balance between safety and efficiency is always a challenge and the new rule revisions move the industry further along the right path toward finding that balance.

* Quotes reference

FMCSA Website HOS Rules