There have been a series of bills proposed this year that target Hours of Service (HOS) reforms in response to the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate that went into effect in December 2017. The latest bill, filed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, June 21, 2018, aims to reform the regulations for livestock/agriculture haulers. The bill would also allow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to move faster on any rulemaking that would provide drivers with split sleeper berth flexibility. The new rule would make it faster and easier for drivers to maintain records under the ELD mandate.
The new bill, called The Honest Operators Undertake Road Safety Act (H.R. 6178), was introduced by Representatives Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia), Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas) and Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas). The bill is the first to be backed by the American Trucking Association (ATA) this year. The ATA announced its support for the legislation on Thursday.
The bill targets the livestock and agriculture hauling sector specifically, like other HOS reform bills filed recently. This bill provides relatively small reforms, instead of a complete overhaul of the HOS rules and regulations. The HOURS act would provide exemptions to truck drivers that are hauling livestock and agriculture commodities, allowing them to be exempt from HOS limits and duty status records. The bill, if passed, would apply year-round as long as the driver is within a 150 air-mile radius of the source of the livestock or agriculture product. Some of the other bills have included time-limitations during state-designated planting and harvesting seasons.
A big part of the HOURS Act is the reduction in supporting documents drivers would be required to maintain. Current regulations require drivers to keep at least eight supporting documents on hand for the previous 24-hour work period. HOS supporting documents include:
- Fuel receipts
- Bills of lading
- Dispatch records.
The new regulation, if passed, would allow drivers to legally maintain only two documents per day, one verifying their start time and the other the end of their workday. The bill would also allow FMCSA to permit more flexible split sleeper options, such as 5-5, 6-4 and 7-3. Current regulations dictate a strict split sleeper berth time to 8 and 2 hours, for the required 10 hour off-duty period every 24 hours.
If FMCSA does propose a rule to alter split sleeper times, the HOURS Act would allow the agency to skip the required process of rulemaking and move directly to rule proposal and accepting public comments.
The HOURS Act would directly impact short-haul as well as long-haul drivers. A short-haul driver is defined as someone who operates within 150 air-miles of their work reporting location. Under the proposed bill, short-haul drivers would be exempt from HOS regs and the ELD mandate if they complete their work day within 14 hours. Current regulations allow this only for non-CDL drivers operating under the short-haul exemption.
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