September 29, tomorrow, is a much-anticipated big day. No, not because of the presidential debate between President Trump and Joe Biden that is scheduled for 9 pm Eastern … well, that too … but because the long-awaited new hours of service rule changes go into effect.
Apparently, however, according to the many comments appearing on Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Twitter and Facebook feeds, there appears to be a lot of confusion as to what the HOS changes are and how to properly use them.
This comment from FMCSA's Twitter announcement of the impending implementing of the new HOS changes is an example of what is being expressed by many drivers over social media: "7 hours in sleeper and 2 hours of off duty 9r sleeper add up 10? 7+2=9? I am confused."
The above video found on Overdrive Magazine's YouTube channel titled, "The pause button for the 14-hour clock in FMCSA's new 7/3 split sleeper berth rule," is said to be one of the best explanations.
In a nutshell what are the changes?
FMCSA offers this succinct summary of the changes:
Short-haul Exception -- Expands the short-haul exception to 150 air-miles and allows a 14-hour work shift to take place as part of the exception.
Adverse Driving Conditions Exception -- Expands the driving window during adverse driving conditions by up to an additional 2 hours.
30-Minute Break Requirement -- 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.
Sleeper Berth Provision -- Modifies the sleeper berth exception to allow a driver to meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement by spending at least 7, rather than at least 8 hours of that period in the berth and a minimum off-duty period of at least 2 hours spent inside or outside the berth, provided the two periods total at least 10 hours, and that neither qualify period counts against the 14-hour driving window.
That's the short version.
For the long version, to help allay confusion the agency hosted a webinar last week to cover those changes and to field questions from webinar participants. A recording of that webinar with visuals can be accessed at the Department of Transportation's ConnectDot website.
Perhaps the most confusing change, at least by the number of comments on social media, concerns the new rules for the sleeper berth split.
Basically, the prior 8-2 split that counted within the 14-hour clock is now an off-duty period of at least 2 hours, followed by another off-duty period of at least 7 consecutive hours that doesn't count in the 14-hour clock – hence the above confused commenter saying that 7+2 adds up to only 9 hours; which is one hour less than the traditional 10-hour mandatory break.
FMCSA explains how the new sleeper berth provision affects the 11-hour driving time limit, but also the part it plays in the 14-hour driving day window.
"The driver comes on-duty at midnight after having 10 consecutive hours off-duty, which means he or she can drive for up to 11 hours within a 14-hour window (indicated by the arrows in the accompanying example log)," the example begins.
"The driver used those 11 hours by 5 p.m. then entered the sleeper berth for 7 consecutive hours. Because the driver accumulated at least 10 hours of rest using a combination of 3 consecutive hours off-duty (7-10 a.m.) and 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth (5 p.m. to midnight), the driver has not violated the 11-hour driving limit.
"Because both periods are qualifying rest breaks, when used together, they can both be excluded from the 14-hour driving window, so there is no 14-hour violation."
New 30-minute break rule change
Similarly explained with examples by the FMCSA is details clearing up confusion about the new rule governing the 30-minute break.
Basically, the old rule required that drivers take a 30-minute break within the first 8 hours of duty, and the break had to be off duty and/or in the sleeper berth.
The new 30-minute rule allows for more flexibility.
In an example illustrating the correct use of the new 30-minute break rule FMCSA explained that, "After 10 hours off-duty the driver comes on-duty at midnight and drives for 5 hours, goes on-duty (not driving) for a ½ hour, drives for 5 more hours, goes on-duty (not driving) for 1 hour, drives for 1 hour, goes on-duty (not driving) for 1 ½ hours, and then takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
"Under the new HOS rule, the 30-minute on-duty break taken between 5 and 5:30 a.m. will suffice for the mandatory 30-minute break, and the property-carrying driver is allowed to drive up to the maximum of 11 hours (6 more hours in this example), before needing 10 consecutive hours off-duty."
However, according to FMCSA, in the following example there would be an incorrect use of the new 30-minute rule resulting in a violation between 9 and 9:30 am.
"After 10 hours off-duty, the driver comes on-duty (not driving) at midnight for 1 hour, drives for 8 ½ hours, goes on-duty (not driving) for a ½ hour, drives for 2 hours, goes off-duty for 1 hour, goes on-duty (not driving) for a ½ hour, drives for a ½ hour, and then takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
"The violation occurs at 9 a.m., as the driver drives for more than 8 consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute rest break. A consecutive 30-minute interruption of driving status may be satisfied either by off-duty, sleeper berth, or on-duty (not driving) time; or by a combination of off-duty, sleeper berth, and on-duty (not driving) time.
"That did not happen in this example, which led to the violation."
To view FMCSA's changes to the short-haul and adverse conditions rules, with detailed explanations and examples, click on the link to bring up the PDF document provided by the agency.
How the changes affect ELD use
FMCSA says that the electronic logging device mandate does not include the requirement for ELDs to identify and report on hours of service violations. But some ELD providers may offer that service as an add-on feature.
If the ELD provider does not update devices in their service to reflect the new HOS rule changes it is very likely that a driver employing the new changes might trigger an hours of service violation.
FMCSA encourages drivers and carriers to contact their ELD providers to clarify if their ELD device does monitor HOS violations and, if so, has the ELD provider updated software to reflect those changes.
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