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September 24, 2020

Hours of Service Rule Change for September 2020

White semi truck on the road.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published changes to the hours of service (HOS) ruling in June of 2020 and those rulings are now coming into effect as of September 29, 2020. You can read FMCSA’s official fact sheet for the general rulings, but here’s a general overview and how they may impact your trucking company.

Short-Haul Exception

There are two major changes with the short-haul exception rules. First, the short-haul exception is extending the air-mile radius from 100 miles to 150 miles. This allows more flexibility, as certain companies who were close to meeting this criteria now may fall under this category.

Second, the maximum on-duty period is extending from 12 hours to 14 hours. This added time makes it easier to adjust when unforeseen circumstances hit and can give the driver more time to get back to their business to end the day.

What Hasn’t Changed

The part of the ruling that hasn’t changed is that drivers are still required to start and end their shift at the same location, often the place of business. They must also have at least 8 hours off if transporting passengers or 10 hours off if hauling property.

Adverse Driving Conditions Exception

The FMCSA will now be allowing drivers to extend their on-duty day by two hours when they encounter adverse driving conditions. Drivers have an 11-hour driving limit and a 14-hour driving window. When claiming adverse driving conditions, drivers can drive up to 13 hours within a 16-hour window if they’re hauling property.

As part of this ruling, the FMCSA is putting additional responsibility on the driver or the motor carrier dispatch to claim adverse driving conditions if they could not have reasonably known there would be ice, sleet, fog, or other issues before starting to drive.

Semitruck on the road in the snow

Advantages of This Ruling

While this may lengthen a driver’s day, it is also a good opportunity for drivers to stay safe and gives more time to adjust to the driving conditions instead of worrying more about their time on-duty.

30-Minute Break Requirement

While the 30-minute break must still be consecutive not-driving time, it can be fulfilled with:

  • Off-duty time
  • Sleeper berth time
  • On-duty, not driving time

Advantages of This Ruling

This change can be especially useful if you stop for fuel in the middle of the day around the time you would take your 30 minute break. Originally, a driver would log the fueling time as on-duty, finish fueling and then have to take the 30 minute break as either off duty or sleeper berth. That would usually mean a 45 minute stop.

Now, the driver can fuel on duty and if that takes 15 minutes, they can switch to off duty or sleeper berth after they are done fueling for another 15 minutes and they will meet the new 30 minute break rule and can be on their way.

Filling a semi truck with gas.

Sleeper Berth Provision

This ruling is only relevant to property-carrying drivers, not for passengers. Instead of being forced to split your day with an 8/2 split, the new sleeper berth provision allows drivers to choose a different split, as long as one off-duty period is at least 2 hours long and there is at least 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth. This means a driver could potentially do an 8/2 split, 7.5/2.5 split, or 7/3 split.

When used together, neither period counts against the maximum 14-hour driving window.

Advantages of This Ruling

While this may lengthen the day of someone’s days, ultimately the flexibility will come in handy, especially if your driver gets stuck for a long time at a shipper or receiver. Drivers can also choose to use their break of at least 2 hours before or after their sleeper berth period.

General Outlook on These Rulings

The FMCSA designed all of these changes to give flexibility to drivers to drive safely without worrying about violating hours of service.

For owner operators, these changes should be advantageous to keep yourself safe on the road and offer more flexibility when driving and may be able to push harder. More time on the road can ultimately make your business more money, but it should be flexible enough to still be safe.

For regular drivers, they may feel the impact of having to run longer days on occasion, but it should offer flexibility to shorten their days, too. While some breaks may feel shorter, it is possible that they may be able to get to their destination faster, and ultimately be able to stop earlier in the day for a longer break.

What Are Trucking Companies Required To Do To Be Compliant?

Inform Your Drivers of the Changes

If you own a trucking company and have hired employees, it is your responsibility to make sure each of your drivers understands the new rulings and expect them to follow them. If not, you could get a safety violation from the FMCSA.

Update Your ELDs

You are also responsible for making sure your ELD follows the new regulations. Some ELDs may update, while others might not, so you are responsible for tracking any violations your ELD reports and adjust the system accordingly.

Keep Your Trucking Company Compliant

At Motor Carrier HQ, our goal is to help you run a successful trucking company. If you have any questions about any regulations set by the FMCSA and how to keep your business on the road, give us a call. Our coaches are always ready to help.

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