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September 29, 2020 1:30 PM, EDT

FMCSA Unveils HOS Resource as Revised Rules Take Effect

Trucks at truck stopTrucks sit at a truck stop in Connecticut. (Alexander Farnsworth/Getty Images)

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has launched an online tool to help carriers and drivers better understand the hours-of-service regulations that took effect Sept. 29.

The Educational Tool for Hours of Service (ETHOS) allows users to enter their duty statuses into a log and identifies potential violations. The final rule, announced by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and FMCSA’s former acting Administrator Jim Mullen on May 14, included four revisions that pertain to issues truckers have voiced concerns about, such as the 30-minute rest break and splitting up time in the sleeper berth. The changes included in the final rule were designed to increase flexibility for truckers.

“Sept. 29 is an important day for our nation’s commercial drivers — the start of the revised hours-of-service rules providing greater flexibility to drivers and carriers without impacting safety,” FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck said. “Our team has worked hard preparing for this launch. [ETHOS] is a prime example of that effort. Its simple, scenario-based system is user-friendly and very helpful, particularly given the uniqueness of runs and driver situations.”

Dan Horvath, vice president of safety policy for American Trucking Associations, said the resource is a good step in helping industry representatives better understand the rules.

“The more educational materials FMCSA can provide to safety directors [and] to drivers, the better, because folks are going to be on the same page as far as understanding the new hours-of-service rules and complying with them,” Horvath told Transport Topics. “Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with past rulemaking, there’s always some gray area that exists with confusion when there’s any rule change, whether it be hours of service, whether it be any regulatory rulemaking changes.”

Specifically, ETHOS is designed to identify potential violation of rules related to the 11-hour driving limit, the 14-hour driving window, the 30-minute rest break and the sleeper berth provision.

Through the resource, a person can enter an event date, time and type, such as “driving” or “off-duty.” He or she also may select a pre-populated example related to the revised 30-minute rest break rule or the revised sleeper berth provision. With information from the entry, ETHOS provides a Record of Duty Status that reflects intervals of time spent driving, on duty, off duty and in the sleeper berth. Potential violations — and the date and time which they occurred — also are listed.

Dan Horvath, director of safety policy for American Trucking Associations

Horvath

Visualization can help people understand HOS rules, Horvath noted. He said when people ask him HOS-related questions, he asks for an example of the driver’s day and jots down scheduling details to better understand the person’s workday. With ETHOS, Horvath said drivers, safety directors and dispatchers can create a “mock duty day,” which may be useful if they’re accustomed to looking at electronic logging devices or logbooks every day.

“That’s often a very easy way to understand the hours-of-service rules as compared to providing a driver with regulatory text and saying ‘Here’s what you can and cannot do,’” Horvath said. “When you take that regulatory text and put it in the context of an actual logbook for that driver’s day, it’s a lot easier to understand, it’s a lot easier to train and that way, everyone’s on a same page. Having an example of something that drivers and safety directors are using on a daily basis is going to be much more beneficial to the industry in understanding it.”

According to the ETHOS webpage, the tool identifies only potential violations and should not be relied on to monitor HOS compliance. Additionally, the page notes that FMCSA does not retain data entered in the application.

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