FMCSA seeks comments on hours rule

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said Jan. 19 that the public will have until March 10 to comment on changes to the hours of service regulations.

In a notice of proposed rulemaking to be published in the Jan. 24 issue of the Federal Register and currently on display at the Federal Register office, the agency is starting with the current regulation as the basis for discussion and is asking interested parties how the rule should be changed to respond to the concerns of a federal appeals court.

FMCSA said it hoped that the data and comments received will provide a more complete picture of the impact of the rule, which was issued in 2003 and took effect Jan. 4, 2004, has had on carrier operations and drivers’ health.

The agency is conducting the rulemaking in response to a July 2004 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that ordered more consideration of the impact the 2003 rule had on the health of drivers. In late September, Congress acted to hold the current rule in place until Sept. 30, 2005, giving FMCSA time to reconsider the rule.

FMCSA has dedicated a team of staff professionals to reviewing the current HOS rule to determine whether changes are needed to better protect truck drivers and other highway users. The team is especially examining provisions questioned by the court, including an increase in daily driving to 11 hours, continued acceptance of split rest in sleeper berths and adoption of a new a 34-hour restart period for the cumulative duty-time limits.

In response to another HOS-related court concern, FMCSA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on Sept. 1, 2004, requesting public comment on the costs and benefits of mandatory electronic on-board recorders. The federal court expressed dissatisfaction with FMCSA’s failure to give more consideration to mandatory recorders.