August 21, 2015 9:00 AM, EDT

Feds Grant Two-Year Hours-of-Service Exemption for Some HazMat Drivers

TT File Photo

Federal regulators have granted a two-year exemption for some hazardous material drivers to the hours-of-service rule on 30-minute breaks.

American Trucking Associations requested the exemption on behalf of all motor carriers that transport certain hazmat shipments requiring security plans under Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regulations.

The Aug. 21 announcement by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration removes a prohibition that drivers hauling security-sensitive hazmat loads such as explosives, weapons, or radioactive materials drive no longer than eight consecutive hours since their last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of 30 minutes or more.

The PHMSA regulations normally require a driver to attend such hazmat cargo while their vehicle is stopped, which is an on-duty activity under the hours-of-service rules. Exempt drivers may now count their on-duty attendance of hazmat cargo toward the required 30-minute rest break requirement provided they perform no other on-duty activity.

In its exemption request, ATA argued that attendance is unlikely to contribute to driver fatigue and that allowing the hazmat drivers to maintain their attendance of these loads provides better security than if the driver has to leave the vehicle to obtain 30 minutes off duty.

“If a driver is not transporting qualifying HM materials, he or she is not entitled to substitute attendance for the required off-duty break,” FMCSA said. “A driver who is not required to constantly attend his or her vehicle must take the minimum 30-minute rest break as off-duty time, which does not count against the seven- or eight-day limit of 60 or 70 hours on-duty.”