HOS Paused for Breaks – FMCSA Starts Split Duty Pilot Program

WASHINGTON – Aug 28, The FMCSA announced via an official press release that they are seeking public comment on a pilot program that would introduce additional HOS regulatory relief. This relief allows CMV operators to effectively pause their on-duty period with up to one off-duty period that can be up to three hours.

The pilot program is aptly named Split Duty Period Pilot Program. It will allow CMV drivers to pause their 14-hour on-duty period with one off-duty period that is no less than 30 minutes and no more than three hours. The driver would be required to take a 10-consecutive-hour off-duty break at the end of the shift.

Participation in the pilot program will be limited to a specific number of CDL holders that will meet the participation criteria. Only CDL drivers who operate a CMV as their primary means of employment would be considered for the pilot program.

Goal of the Split Duty Period Pilot Program

The goal will be to collect statistical data on whether this kind of flexibility can be aligned with “employers’, shippers’, and receivers’ scheduling preferences to optimize productivity while ensuring safety performance at a level equivalent or greater than what would be achieved absent the regulatory relief.”

FMCSA will keep an eye on carriers and drivers alike. The goal of the pilot program, according to the FMCSA, is not to have carriers, shippers, or receivers undermine the purpose of the pause for “purposes other than the productivity and safety of drivers, especially to compensate for time wasted during the 14-hour driving window due to detention periods.”

FMCSA estimates that the desired sample size for the pilot program will be between 200 and 400 drivers. The whole study will be done over a period of up to three years. However, individual drivers will be included in the study for a period of 6 months or one year.

“FMCSA wants to hear directly from drivers about the possibility and safety of an hours-of-service pause pilot program. The Agency remains committed to exploring ways to improve safety on our roadways, while increasing flexibility for truckers. We encourage drivers, motor carriers, and interested citizens to review the proposed pilot program and provide substantive public comments for FMCSA to review,” Acting Administrator Jim Mullen, who recently announced to be stepping down from the position, said in the press release.

Participation Criteria

Below are listed the participation criteria for the pilot program.

Carriers

To qualify for the Split Duty Period Pilot Program, a motor carrier must meet the following criteria, as listed by the FMCSA:

  1. Must have proper operating authority and registration;
  2. Must have the minimum levels of financial responsibility, if applicable;
  3. Must not be a high or moderate risk motor carrier as defined in the Agency’s Federal Register notice of ADD;
  4. Must not have a conditional or unsatisfactory safety rating;
  5. Must not have any enforcement actions within the past 3 years;
  6. Must not have a crash rate above the national average;
  7. Must not have a driver Out of Service (OOS) rate above the national average; and
  8. Must not have a vehicle OOS rate above the national average.

In addition, unpaid civil penalties may be grounds to be disapproved from

participating in the pilot program.

Furthermore, carriers must meet the following requirements:

  • Grant permission for drivers to participate in the Split Duty Period Pilot Program;
  • Agree to comply with all pilot program procedures;
  •  Grant permission for researchers to install a video-based onboard monitoring system (OBMS) and gather records of duty status (RODS) information for each participating driver throughout the study duration; and
  • Grant permission for drivers participating in the study to operate under the 14-hour on-duty window exemption.

Drivers

A motor carrier determines the drivers’ eligibility. The carrier must not approve a driver for participation in the pilot program if in the period of two years before the immediate participation in the pilot program, the driver:

  • Had his or her license suspended, revoked, cancelled or has been disqualified for a conviction of one of the disqualifying offenses listed into 49 CFR 383.51; or
  • Had any conviction for a violation of State or local law relating to motor vehicle traffic control (other than parking violation) arising in connection with any traffic crash and have no record of a crash in which he/she was determined to be at fault.

Furthermore, drivers are required to:

  • Operate a CMV as their main source of employment;
  • Have a valid CDL;
  • Maintain a valid medical certificate from a healthcare professional on the Agency’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners while participating in the pilot program;
  • Have the employer’s approval for participation in the study;
  • Operate a property-carrying vehicle, not a passenger-carrying vehicle;
  • Agree to the release of specific information to FMCSA for purposes of the pilot; and
  • Agree to study procedures, including the use of actigraphs, RODS, and video-based OBMS.

FMCSA’s Final Rule Does Not Include a Proposed Provision

FMCSA’s final HOS rule that was published in the June 1 Federal Register does not cover a proposed provision that allows CMV drivers one rest break of up to three hours during a 14-hour on-duty period. 

The pilot program directly responds to many sides of the trucking industry advocating for a split duty provision in the final HOS rule. 

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