Truck driver’s hours-of-service waiver request rejected by FMCSA

Leland Schmitt recently submitted a request to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that has garnered the attention of the truck driving industry. Schmitt requested an exemption from the federally mandated hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. The exemption was rejected by FMSCA. But he is not ready to give up, as reported by Freightwaves.

“We knew [getting denied] could be a possibility, and obviously we’re upset,” said Leland’s wife, Lisa Schmitt. “But hopefully we will resubmit our application by the end of the day. We’re looking at other options as well. We’re not dropping this. FMCSA has to reasonably address the reasons that the request was denied, and we feel they haven’t done that.”

Leland Schmitt, a truck driver based in Spring Valley, Wisconsin, submitted his exemption request in January. The request was for Schmitt to be exempt from the 10-hour consecutive off duty time requirement, the 14-hour consecutive duty clock requirement, and the 30-minute rest break. His motivation behind these requests were to decrease the risk of driver fatigue of his routes.

“The level of safety achieved by granting this exemption would be better than if complying with the regulations … because my body would receive the rest it needs, when it needs it,” Schmitt wrote. “This would be achieved because at the age of 50, I am able to recognize when my body needs rest and when I am safe enough to drive on the nation’s roadways. The level of safety under this exemption would be at least the same, if not more than it is now, based on my 30 years of safe driving experience.”

In defense of their rejection, the FMCSA concluded that he failed to prove that receiving the exemption would permit him to achieve a level of safety equal to or greater than what he could maintain sans the hours-of-service exemption. The full decision was published in the Federal Register on Nov. 9.

“Research studies demonstrate that long work hours reduce sleep and harm driver health, and that crash risk increases with work hours,” the agency wrote in their decision. “The HOS regulations impose limits on when and how long an individual may drive to ensure that drivers stay awake and alert and to reduce the possibility of cumulative fatigue.”

Nearly 700 people offered their comments on the exemption citing that the agency granting exemptions from the requirements Schmitt requested would result in conflict with other HOS regulations. The agency agreed that “it could open the door for a huge number of similar exemption requests. Such a result would be inconsistent with a primary goal of the HOS regulations.”

Lisa Schmitt firmly believes the request for exemption would increase the safety of her husband’s routes. With the current HOS regulations, a driver can be operating on the road for a maximum of 13 hours in one 24-hour day.

“We’re only asking to drive 11 in a 24-hour period,” Lisa Schmitt said. “So, if we’re driving less hours in a day, how can we be less safe.”

She continued in saying that FMCSA made a mistake in publicly acknowledging that permitting Leland’s exemption request would create hundreds of other requests from other drivers.

“They opened the floodgates themselves by publishing an application that meets none of the exemption criteria [in the regulations],” she said about a different HOS exemption request filed this year.

Leland Schmitt hasn’t driven a rig for work since April. High fuel costs and raised insurance costs paired with the stringency of the HOS’s rules led him to step back from driving. The couple is ready to get back in the driver and passenger seats, respectively.

“We came home, took the summer off and stocked up the pantry. But we want to go back on the road,” Lisa Schmitt said.