Where do we Stand with the HOS Regulations?

HOS Regulations- Hours of Service

If there is one constant in Washington DC, it’s that you can always count on the unexpected to occur. Such is the case with the implementation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s ELD Mandate and HOS regulations which were supposed to go into full activation back in 2019.

However, these new rules and regulations have not been fully rolled out on the expected timetable.

For the trucking industry, 2019 was a very frustrating and expensive year. Multiple large to medium-sized carriers spent millions of dollars in upgrading monitoring equipment, training drivers, administrators, and support staff. Overall, they began preparing to restructure their entire logistics planning process, all based on the new HOS regulations. 

By law, these carriers had until December 16th, 2019 to become fully compliant (with the exception of those operating under a short-haul rule exemption in the ELD Mandate). But like most new regulations, delays in implementation due to the work of advocacy groups and others have opened the door for added flexibility with the HOS rules.

Unfortunately, while that door opened up the floor for discussion in the latter half of 2019, it was never fully resolved or enacted in any impactful way.


Did Public Commenting Open Up Opportunity for Flexibility?

In October 2019, the FMCSA sought the input of stakeholders in the transportation and logistics industry on how the ELD Mandate affected their business operations. Arguably, this transparent act gaining commentary from those affected made a huge impact on HOS implementation. 

The main source of input was a proposed HOS rule revision that would allow drivers more flexibility within their 30-minute rest period and the division of time spent in the sleeper section. The rule would also increase by two hours the duty time of drivers who encounter poor weather conditions.

Likewise, short-haul exemptions would be extended from 12 hours to 14 hours and increase their range from 100 miles to 150 miles. 

The amount of people who responded to the inquiry has apparently caused several federal regulators to reconsider many of the proposed regulatory rules found within the ELD Mandate. In fact, many industry insiders have suggested that based on the input of carriers, both large scale, and private owner-operators, there may be additional changes to the ELD Mandate rules.

It is not known when an official notification or amendment to the House resolution will be enacted, but it is currently under review. 


The Role of Infrastructure Expansion?

One of the biggest areas where Republicans and Democrats both agree is implementing a robust infrastructure improvement project across the United States. Whether it’s improving the condition of roadways, drainage systems, bridges, buildings and waterways, the infrastructure of the USA is aging at an expeditious rate, which is introducing several public safety concerns. 

When the 116th US Congress took to a session, the President's executive leadership expressed a desire to work with Congress to develop a comprehensive and robust infrastructure project. A project that would potentially see an investment of more than a trillion dollars in federal funds to improve US infrastructure. 

In order to accomplish and implement this large-scale project, the transportation of large truckloads would be required to haul supplies and materials to these project sites. 

There are several insiders who believe that the practicality of this proposed infrastructure project – that is expected to last a decade or more, may have stimulated Federal Regulators to rethink some rules currently existing in the ELD Mandate. 

The 2015 FAST Act is the final infrastructure bill that is set to expire in fall 2020. With several political polls indicating large-scale public support of Government Funded infrastructure improvement, both Political Parties are anxious to pass a large-scale project to satisfy their base and ensure public safety.


When Will the ELD Mandate Be Finalized?

In the end, the question as to when the ELD Mandate will be finalized and implemented remains in the air. Assuming the US Congress and Senate can agree upon a multiple-year infrastructure bill, it is quite conceivable that the ELD Mandate may perhaps be removed altogether. At least until a more suitable and fair solution is created. 

Add the current issues of driver availability and financial struggles many carriers experienced in 2019, and it’s quite possible the ELD Mandate will continue to be kicked down the road for quite some time before we ever see any real forward movement happening.

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