The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking public comment through Nov. 1 on a proposed pilot program allowing commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators to take one rest break—up to three consecutive hours but no less than 30 minutes—during every 14-hour on-duty period.
Under the “Split Duty Period Pilot Program,” CMV drivers would have the option to pause their on-duty period when taking the rest break, “provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off duty at the end of the work shift.”
“FMCSA wants to hear directly from drivers about the possibility and safety of an hours-of-service pause pilot program,” said Jim Mullen, who stepped down as the agency’s acting administrator at the end of August, in a news release. “The agency remains committed to exploring ways to improve safety on our roadways, while increasing flexibility for truckers. We encourage drivers, motor carriers and interested citizens to review the proposed pilot program and provide substantive public comments for FMCSA to review.”
Participation in this program would be limited to a certain number of commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders who meet the criteria specified for participating. This pilot program—scheduled to operate for three years or less—would gather statistically reliable evidence to analyze the safety and feasibility of such a modification to the hours-of-service (HOS) rules.
Jim Wiesemeyer, Pro Farmer policy analyst, reports, “There would be criteria for both motor carriers and drivers to be able to participate, including the carriers cannot have any enforcement actions within the past three years and cannot have a crash rate above the national average. For drivers, they cannot have had their license suspended, revoked or cancelled and cannot have had a conviction for a violation of state or local motor vehicle traffic control laws in connection with an at-fault crash.”
This proposal follows news of a highly anticipated final rule – published in the June 1 Federal Register – planned to take effect Sept. 29. FMCSA claims will add flexibility to hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers. Under the rule, the agency will:
• Change the short-haul exemption to 150 air miles from 100, and 14 hours on duty from 12, to be consistent for rules with long-haul truck drivers.
• Extend the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions.
• Revise the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after eight hours of continuous driving.
• Reinstate the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks equipped with sleeper berth compartments.
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