How Do the Updated FMCSA Guidelines Affect New Drivers?
Back in June 2020, FMCSA revised four provisions relating to the hours-of-service (HoS) regulations, with the revisions giving greater flexibility to drivers in an attempt to open up schedules without adversely impacting safety. As of September 29, 2020, motor carriers must now comply with these revised regulations.
What do the revisions mean for drivers and fleets, and how do the updated guidelines impact newer drivers who are entering the trucking industry?
Federal Restrictions Have Loosened
With the revisions made back in June, federal restrictions on the hours of service (HoS) caps for truck drivers have been loosened. The result is more flexibility for fleets when it comes to managing how many hours their drivers are able to haul freight.
The revisions were set to go into effect 120 days later, at the end of September, with the three-month period intended to give ELD providers time to modify their technology. As of now, the provisions have been long in effect, so the question is, have these changes been useful?
How The Provisions Impact Fleets
The revised provisions have made four major changes to the rules:
- The 30-minute break rule has changed to require a break after 8 hours of consecutive driving. The break can be satisfied by a driver being in on-duty, not-driving status instead of off-duty status.
- The sleeper-berth exception has been modified, allowing drivers to split the 10 hours of required off-duty time into two periods: either an 8/2 split or a 7/3 split. Neither period counts against the 14-hour driving window.
- The adverse driving conditions exception has been modified, extending the maximum window in which driving is permitted by two hours.
- The short-haul exception has been modified, making it available to certain commercial drivers and lengthening these drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours. It also extends the distance limit for these drivers from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.
Without a doubt, these changes represent more options and overall flexibility for fleets, particularly for experienced drivers. As truck drivers begin to re-enter the industry and get behind the wheel once again as they return to service, these revisions will open the doors and provide just a bit more freedom when it comes to scheduling, comfort, and re-adjusting to life on the road.
However, it’s important to ask if the revisions will have a unique impact on new drivers in the industry who are adjusting to being behind the wheel and on the road for long periods.
The Effects on New Drivers
The June revisions have an impact on new drivers in a few indirect ways. To understand the impact, it must first be understood why these revisions were made. Primarily, these revisions were put into place in response to an increasing need for truck drivers in the midst of a pandemic that worsened an already growing number of unfulfilled positions.
These revisions were made to help maximize the abilities of drivers already in the trucking industry. By slightly extending how long drivers can be on the road each day and making other changes that help improve overall efficiency, these revisions make more use of the truckers we already have behind the wheels of every fleet.
However, these revisions also have an impact on potential new drivers entering the trucking industry. While there’s still an incredible need for drivers in the growing trucking industry, some fleets may be able to close the gap with these new revisions, cutting back on the need for new drivers — at least in the short-term.
On the flip side, with many truck drivers violating HoS rules and having their driving rights revoked, these revisions may help open things up. As a result, this could lead to fewer violations and thus keep more drivers behind the wheel. Additionally, the added flexibility these revisions provide can help encourage new drivers to come into the industry.