This story appears in the March 28 print edition of Transport Topics.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has filed a petition asking federal regulators to rescind a requirement that truck drivers take a 30-minute rest break within the first eight hours of their driving time after being off-duty.
The truck and bus safety inspectors’ trade group said the requirement, a provision in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 2011 hours-of-service rule that became effective July 1, 2013, is difficult to enforce since the inspector has no way of verifying whether the driver took the break.
The petition said a driver could have skipped the break and instead used the time to perform work- related duties such as fueling or loading or unloading his or her truck.
“This provision gives problem drivers, and motor carriers, an opportunity to falsify their record of duty status in an attempt to disguise or conceal on-duty hours,” the CVSA petition said.
FMCSA has said the requirement was enacted in an effort to address acute fatigue during the workday.
An electronic logging device can record a 30-minute period when a truck is not moving, but it cannot distinguish between a resting driver and one doing nondriving work.
CVSA Executive Director Collin Mooney said FMCSA has acknowledged receipt of the petition but has not made a decision on whether to accept or reject the request.
The petition was filed in late October, but it was only recently made public on a new FMCSA website that complies with a FAST Act provision. The congressional order requires the agency to publish on a publicly accessible website a summary of all petitions that request regulatory action. The order also directs FMCSA to prioritize the petitions based on the likelihood of safety improvements that might result from the action requested.
FMCSA declined comment or to immediately provide a copy of the petition. A spokesman said the agency had to go through a search process to find the petition.
Transport Topics obtained the document from CVSA, which represents U.S., Canadian and Mexican safety inspectors.
The association said it does not believe there is evidence that the break requirement improves a driver’s overall operational capabilities or increases safety.
“The 30-minute rest break creates more difficulty for roadside inspectors and law enforcement officers to verify compliance,” CVSA said.
Further complicating the issues is that, as of October, CVSA said FMCSA had issued nine exemptions from the requirement including hazardous materials transporters, livestock haulers, concrete haulers and the partments of Defense and Energy.
“In each of these instances, FMCSA has indicated that an equivalent level of safety can be maintained under the exemption,” CVSA said. “While CVSA does not object to these exemptions on an individual basis, exemptions complicate the enforcement process, causing confusion and inconsistency in enforcement.”
“It all comes down to enforceability,” Mooney told TT. “If you’re going to have a rule, then let’s make it applicable to everyone.” Former FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said in November 2013 that the rule allowed a driver to take the break at a time and place of his or her choosing and may include meals and rest.
“It is important to note that most drivers were already taking multiple short breaks during the workday. And the rule does not require that drivers take an additional break,” Ferro said. “The rule only requires that at least one of those breaks consist of at least 30 consecutive minutes off-duty.”