On May 14, the federal Department of Transportation issued final regulations easing commercial motor vehicle driver time restrictions. The final rules follow an August proposal that was intended to provide motor carriers with more scheduling flexibility while maintaining current safety standards.
The final regulations include most of the August proposals:
- The 30-minute mandatory rest break only applies if the driver has been actually driving for eight hours. Non-driving working time will not count toward this total, and in fact, some non-driving working time can be counted toward the break.
- Short haul drivers can operate further from their home base, and the amount of time exempted from recording hours of service grows from 12 to 14 hours.
- Drivers with sleeper berths can use them to meet the 10-hour off-duty requirement. In some cases, this off-duty requirement can be split into two rest periods totaling 10 hours.
- The current 11-hour cap on total driving time is expanded to 13 hours if the driver encounters adverse driving conditions such as bad weather or traffic.
DOT removed from the final rules a proposal that would have allowed drivers to take “split-duty” breaks that would have paused the 14-hour daily service limit. DOT concluded that this method could have extended the working day to 17 hours, which presented driver fatigue and safety issues.
The agency said that the new rules will help alleviate shipping issues caused by the COVID-19 emergency. Driver advocates, including the Teamsters union, indicated that they may challenge the new rules in federal court based on safety concerns. Otherwise, the final regulations take effect September 14, 2020.