NEAFA Submits Comments on Hours of Service Rule


Earlier this year, the congressionally mandated electronic logging device (ELD) rule went into effect. The ELD required most Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)-regulated motor carriers to convert their records from paper to an electronic format. While compliance with the ELD rule has reached nearly 99 percent across the trucking industry, it has also brought focus to hours of service (HOS) regulations, especially with regard to certain rules having a significant impact on agriculture and other sectors of trucking. In speaking with our members, it is evident that compliance with some of the HOS regulations is having unintended consequences that may be impacting the safety habits of truck drivers.

“Members of the Alliance recognize that safety is paramount in development and enforcement of HOS regulations”, stated Blake Lutz, NEAFA Transportation Committee Chair. “We feel the changes being considered by the FMCSA will provide flexibility to drivers and allow them to make the safest choices possible in the organization of their routes, accommodations for adverse weather conditions, and management of their personal needs for rest.” NEAFA calls for the following changes to be considered to the ELD.

Currently, the 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption's 12-hour limitation is forcing driving decisions that could be unsafe. Expanding the exemption to 14 hours on-duty will accommodate the majority of the trucking distances incurred by the livestock feed industry. This extension, in addition to several other provisions, will strike a reasonable balance between the need for rest and the cost of shipping feed commodities. There is also the current 14-hour on-duty limitation that needs attention. Expanding that limitation by two hours during adverse driving conditions will increase the overall safety by allowing drivers to slow their speed to accommodate the conditions. This extension is especially important in the northern tier of the U.S., where slower speeds during winter driving conditions can significantly increase travel times.

NEAFA also recommends revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after 8-hours of continuous driving. For many drivers, shorter, more frequent breaks are sufficient and can accommodate the scheduling realities of loading and unloading of feed trucks. Also, reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment is extremely important in the livestock feed industry. Despite the best efforts for efficient scheduling, some drivers experience several hours of wait time to load and unload. The split berth option will allow them to appropriately apply these hours towards rest, rather than rushing and risking unsafe driving situations.

The 150 air mile ELD agricultural exemption applies to trucks delivering feed from mill to farm and therefore provides additional flexibility for the feed industry. 

The Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance appreciates the willingness of the FMCSA to consider modification of the HOS regulations. Adoption of mandatory ELD increased awareness about the impact of weather and scheduling on trucking schedules.  Implementation of the proposed changes to the HOS rules will allow truckers to make prudent decisions to address safety for themselves and other drivers.