The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently implemented a rule that reduces the maximum number of days a state can waive hours-of-service regulations during a state of emergency from 30 to 14.
“This rule ensures that the relief granted through emergency declarations is appropriate and tailored to the specifics of the circumstances and emergencies being addressed,” FMCSA wrote.
This adjustment, scheduled to become effective on Dec. 12, has sparked criticism from certain stakeholders but represents a compromise compared to the agency’s initial proposal, which suggested a five-day limit.
The operational guidelines during waiver periods have also undergone revisions as part of this change.
“This rule also revises the process for extending automatic emergency regulatory relief where circumstances warrant and allows for potential reporting requirements when FMCSA issues an extension or modification,” it said.
Interestingly, the FMCSA, in its original December proposal, acknowledged the absence of specific “quantitative evidence” demonstrating that 30-day emergency hours-of-service exemptions have negatively impacted safety.
The FMCSA stressed it is “generally accepted that driver fatigue increases risk of safety incidents, and that one of the leading causes of driver fatigue is driving for too long and working long hours without adequate opportunities for restorative sleep.”
This acknowledgment formed a central point of contention, with various trade organizations, including the American Trucking Associations, the American Association for State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, characterizing the initial proposal as a solution in search of a problem. The state of North Dakota also opposed the proposal.
“Essentially, our biggest concern with the proposal was that FMCSA was proposing a five-day initial duration,” said Dan Horvath, ATA’s senior vice president of regulatory affairs and safety policy. “In our estimate, based on the feedback we got not only from our motor carriers, but from state associations and from other safety groups as well, is that five days is just not going to be enough time. So we kind of split the difference with FMCSA, and said how about 14 days? That’s what they ended up with, so we were pleased with that aspect. We’re supportive of that… I think overall this is a great example of how the comment process and public feedback can help change the way a rulemaking is.”
Source: Transport Topics