WASHINGTON, DC, US — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued its final rule on changes to driver hours-of-service regulations with reforms that increase driver flexibility and facilitate the availability of truck transportation.

The new rule should improve trucking efficiency and expand trucking capacity, said the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA).

“The decision to increase the air-mile radius to 150 miles (172.6 statute miles) for the short-haul exemption is particularly important for drivers transporting agricultural products that are ineligible for the agricultural exception to the hours-of-service rules, such as processed products like soybean meal, distillers grains and flour. Expanding the short-haul exemption greatly increases its usefulness for agricultural haulers across the country,” the NGFA said.

The NGFA noted that truck drivers transporting agricultural products make use of the agricultural exception and the short-haul exemption to the hours-of-service rule. The agricultural exception allows drivers to avoid maintaining a time record or logbook for the portion of the haul that is within 150 air-miles of the origin. However, the agricultural exception is restricted to instances when a driver is transporting agricultural commodities, non-processed food, feed, fiber, livestock or farm supplies; processed agricultural commodities do not qualify. When a driver is unable to use the agricultural exception because the cargo does not qualify, the short-haul exemption is useful because it enables drivers to use a time record in place of a logbook, the association said. 

The NGFA submitted comments to FMCSA throughout the rulemaking process. The final rule makes the following positive changes to the existing hours-of-service rules:

• Increases the air-mile radius of short-haul trucking from 100 air miles to 150 air miles and expands allowable work shift from 12 hours to 14 hours, but maintains an 11-hour limit on driving time;

• Allows drivers, under certain adverse driving conditions, to extend their driving window by up to two hours;

• Provides more flexibility to drivers’ 30-minute rest period requirement;

• Makes modifications to the split sleeper berth provisions of the rule allowing greater flexibility for how a driver splits their sleeper berth time.

The 230-page final rule is scheduled to go into effect 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register.