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December 18, 2020 10:45 AM, EST

Asked and Answered: FMCSA Experts Address HOS Questions

Trucker looking at ELDWhile operating under the shorthaul exception, drivers are not required to fill out a log with a graph grid or use an electronic logging device; they can use a time record instead. (MiX Telematics)

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Although it has been in effect for more than two months, members of the public still have questions about the final rule on hours-of-service regulations — and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration representatives are still willing to answer them.

FMCSA officials addressed those concerns during an online question-and-answer session on the final rule Dec. 17. The final rule, which was announced May 14 and took effect Sept. 29, included four revisions that increased flexibility for truckers.

Diligent and timely record-keeping is an important practice for drivers, according to FMCSA officials who participated in the session.

Joe DeLorenzo

DeLorenzo

With regard to the shorthaul exception, FMCSA Director of Enforcement and Compliance Joe DeLorenzo emphasized that motor carriers must record a driver’s time in, time out and the total number of hours worked per day. These records must be maintained for six months.

The final rule changed the shorthaul exception available to certain drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150. While operating under the shorthaul exception, drivers are not required to fill out a log with a graph grid or use an electronic logging device; they can use a time record instead.

“You do have to have some sort of account of your time,” DeLorenzo said. “Managing that and thinking through that up front is pretty important.”

When drivers no longer meet the exception (if, for instance, they travel farther than the 150 air miles or can’t make it back to the reporting location in time), they fill out a paper log for the day. If a driver is required to complete a log eight days or fewer within the past 30 days, he or she can use a paper log with a graph grid. If the driver has to complete a log more than eight days within the last 30 days, he or she must use an ELD to record time.

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In the event of adverse driving conditions, agency representatives recommended drivers record the conditions when they occur — rather than at the end of the day, when a driver may be over his or her hour limits.

“That will help you to establish, when anybody asks,” DeLorenzo said. “That’s always helpful when somebody questions your log down the road.”

The final rule modified the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted. Adverse driving conditions refer to snow, ice, sleet, fog or other weather conditions or unusual traffic situations that were not known, or could not reasonably be known, to a driver or a motor carrier immediately prior to the start of duty.

Rich Clemente, transportation specialist within FMCSA’s Driver and Carrier Operations Division, clarified that incidents on the road involving a truck driver do not qualify as an adverse driving condition for that particular driver. He also noted rush-hour traffic is not included in the definition of an adverse driving condition.

RoadSigns

In this special two-part year in review, we look at the technology and regulatory developments that will help you and your business in 2021. Transport Topics Reporter Eleanor Lamb and Managing Editor for Features Seth Clevenger discuss HOS, software, equipment and more. Hear a snippet, above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.

“These are unforeseen events, such as a highway that may get closed because of an accident,” Clemente said.

The speakers also emphasized the elements of flexibility in the updated split sleeper berth exception and 30-minute rest break rule. The final rule offers more flexibility for the 30-minute rest break provision by requiring a break after eight hours of driving and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using “on-duty, not driving” status, rather than solely “off-duty” status. Drivers also may use “sleeper berth” status to fulfill the break requirement.

The 30 minutes need to be consecutive and can represent a combination of different statuses, such as off-duty and on-duty, not driving. Roadside inspections and yard moves can count toward a driver’s 30-minute break requirement. Clemente cautioned that yard moves can’t be made on public roadways.

He said a driver normally has the wherewithal to take a 30-minute break when fueling his or her truck or getting a snack.

The online session marks the latest effort FMCSA has made to help the public grasp the updated HOS rules. The agency launched an online tool to help carriers and drivers better understand the HOS regulations Sept. 29. The Educational Tool for Hours of Service allows users to enter their duty statuses into a log and identifies potential violations.

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