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FMCSA seeks comments on proposed HOS rule changes

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in August, which details various changes that it may make to commercial truck drivers' hours-of-service rules. The FMCSA is seeking input up until Sept. 24 before it decides whether or not to implement these changes, so truckers and fleet owners in Ohio will want to follow the developments closely.

The following are the proposed rule changes. First, the agency may change the 100 air-mile exemption for short-haul drivers from 14 on-duty hours to 12 to be consistent with the requirements for long-haul drivers. It may also allow drivers up to two hours over the 14-hour on-duty limitation when faced with bad driving conditions.

Currently, there is a rule requiring a 30-minute break after eight consecutive on-duty hours; the FMCSA may revise this. It may also reinstate the option for truckers with sleeper berth compartments to split up their mandatory 10-hour rest period between shifts.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and TruckerNation.org have filed one petition each, which the FMCSA is also considering. The first is to allow truckers one rest break of up to 3 straight hours during their 14-hour on-duty period. The second is to allow truckers the option of taking multiple off-duty periods of up to 3 hours instead of observing the 10-hour rest period.

HOS rules play an indirect role in preventing truck accidents, specifically those caused by drowsy driving. Drowsy driving is a form of negligence, so trucking companies may be held liable for any injuries that victims incur. Victims, for their part, may want a lawyer by their side as they negotiate for a fair settlement covering their medical expenses, vehicle repair costs and other damages. The lawyer might hire third parties to investigate the accident and gather the necessary proof.

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