2019 brought several proposed changes to Hours of Service Rules for truckers. Since then, those proposed HOS changes have been in a long review process with community input. Some of those same rules have already been modified under March’s Emergency Declaration to meet changing demands during COVID-19. Whether you love the changes or hate them, most of the updates from the end of last year are here to stay. 

The Final Rulings

There are four main changes that were added to the new HOS rules. Ultimately, the goal of each update is to improve safety and offer drivers more flexibility. On June 1, 2020, the final Hours of Service rule updates were released. The new HOS Ruling will officially take effect on September 29, 2020. Until then, the current HOS regulations from the Emergency Declaration will stay in place. 

“30-minute break” Flexibility


The 30-minute break has been hotly debated among drivers since it was first issued. The FMCSA added the rule to improve safety, but it can force drivers to stop at inconvenient times. The old rules stated that drivers had to take a 30-minute break after 8 hours on duty. That time had to be logged as sleeper berth or off-duty. Many drivers don’t love the 30-minute break, but the new rules do bring some improvements.


Under the updated Hours of Service Rule, drivers are required to take a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving time. You can also now take your break as any combination of Off-Duty, Sleeper Berth, or On-Duty, Not Driving. It still has to be a continuous 30-minute break, but now there are more choices for how you can spend that time.

Split-Sleeper Berth


We’ve voted this rule “Most Likely to Wish You Paid More Attention in Math Class.” The old version of the split-sleeper berth was pretty complicated. About Trucking does a good job explaining the details if you want the full picture. In a nutshell, drivers could split their sleeping time and were able to log driving time either before or after the break. Drivers then had to track how much time they had for the next shift and compare it to the 14-hour work shift clock. That might leave a driver with 5 hours of drive time available, but only 3 hours before hitting their maximum 14 hours. Ouch.


Drivers can split their 10 off-duty hours into one period of 7+ hours in the sleeper berth and 2+ hours either off-duty or in the sleeper berth.

You can use that time for sleep or take advantage of the time to destress in other ways. Importantly, all breaks extend the 14-hour clock.

Whew. The mental math for hours just got easier. 

You may have seen the proposal for the “split-duty provision” aka the “14-hour pause” that was initially proposed. After hearing arguments on both sides, this update was ultimately not included in the final ruling due to safety concerns. 

Adverse Driving Conditions 


Prior to the new Hours of Service rule, drivers were getting mixed messages about the policy for adverse driving conditions. Drivers could extend their drive time by up to 2 hours. That said, the 14-hour threshold was still a limiting factor. For example, even if your shipment got delayed due to unforeseen weather conditions and you were 30 minutes from delivering when you hit 14 hours, that’s where you had to stop. 


Under the updated HOS rules, drivers can extend their drive time AND their 14-hour workday if needed. The extension can be no more than 2 hours but it gives drivers more flexibility in keeping their intended schedule. Even with the added time, pay close attention to road conditions and safety. If the weather gets really bad, make sure you know your rights as a driver.

Short Haul Exception

The Short Haul Exception applies only to CDL holders who run close to their home terminal AND do not run logbooks. If you don’t fit that description, this last update won’t affect you.


The previous short haul rule stated that drivers who meet those criteria could drive a maximum of a 12-hour work shift and were limited to a radius of 100 miles from their terminal.


The basic ideas behind the short haul exception have not changed. Instead, the time and radius maximums have been expanded. Drivers who meet the criteria of the short haul exception can now work 14 hours on-duty and with a radius of 150 miles. This rule won’t impact all drivers, but it may increase miles for anyone in this category.


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The Department of Transportation announced Oct. 5 a new initiative to achieve an incredible highway safety feat by the year 2046: Zero traffic deaths.

Overdrive magazine wrote about the announcement in a news article.

“Overall, our vision is simple – zero fatalities on our roads,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The U.S. DOT and three of its sub-agencies — including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration — said the Road to Zero project will give $1 million a year for the next three years to “organizations working on lifesaving programs.” Road to Zero partners include, in addition to DOT and FMCSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration and the private non-profit National Safety Council.

Details on specific initiatives Road to Zero will promote are scarce

In addition, Overdrive wrote, the DOT focuses on several areas. For example, some of these include promoting broader use of seatbelts, greater use of rumble strips and greater use of data in enforcement.

Also, the DOT points to the fast-developing field of vehicle automation. This serves as reason to “[believe] the liklihood that the vision of zero road deaths and serious injuries can be achieved in the next 30 years.”

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drug testing

By the end of September, the FMCSA publishes a final rule to establish a central database featuring drug testing results from company drivers and owner-operators, writes

The database is called The Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, and it will keep record of CDL permit holders who have either failed or refused a drug test. Live Trucking explained how the rule will work:

The rule mandates that carriers and owner-operators must submit positive drug tests or test refusals to the FMCSA regularly.

Drivers must give written consent to be added to the database before submitting a drug test.

Blivetrucking.comut, a refusal to do so could result in losing driving privileges.

If a drug test is positive, drivers must complete a “return-to-duty” process, which includes evaluation and monitoring by a substance abuse specialist. After completing this, the positive drug test will remain in the database for three to five years. However, if a driver fails to complete the process, a failed drug test will remain in the database forever.

That’s right, forever.

On the bright side, truck drivers can appeal a positive drug test if a possible error exists. Then, the FMCSA reviews that decision within 60 days, Live Trucking writes.

Trucking companies must annually search the database. They check for driver traffic tickets or citations related to driving under the influence.

According to the FMCSA, the regulation costs the industry $186 million annually

But, it also results in $187 million of benefits. Trucking companies spend $28 million annually for the annual mandate. In addition, they spend another $10 million in pre-employment screenings. An estimated $101 million allocates to drivers, required to undergo the return-to-duty process.


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overdriveonline.comWith new regulations for food haulers handed down in April by the FDA, shippers will now be charged with setting cleanliness guidelines for truck drivers and their equipment, Overdrive writes. One attorney says shippers may turn trucks away without loads if they fail to meet previously agreed to requirements.

Rob Moseley of transportation firm Smith Moore Leatherwood offered insight into the new regulations in a May 11 webinar held for shippers, brokers and carriers.

The Food & Drug Administration rules remain broad, and only about 10% of the rule applies to food transportation. Even then, most of the transportation-focused portions of the rule, meant for shippers. So, just a small part of the rule applies to carriers directly.

The new rules goes into effect April 6, 2017.

They require shippers to develop standards for certain food shipments, such as temperature-controlled foods and produce.

“Shippers control the process without any question about it,” Moseley said. “They control how to transport their goods. And the consignee or receiver tasked with making sure those protocols set by the shipper have been met.”

Shippers must set sanitation requirements for carriers’ equipment.

In addition, they also set pre-cooling requirements for reefer loads and periodic training for carrier personnel, drivers included, who may interact with food products.

Likely the key takeaway from the new regulations for food hauling carriers is to have clean, well kept equipment, Moseley said. “This may mean that trailers need work,” he said. “If they leak with rain from the roof, or if road water comes into the trailer from the floor, you need to make changes,” he said. Small holes, debris, vermon droppings or trailers that smell bad give shippers pause under the new rules, Moseley said.

Another component of the rule likely to apply to carriers are its pre-cooling requirements.

Such requirements impact by load times. When shippers dictate certain pre-cooling temperatures prior to food being loaded onto a trailer, those requirements must be met, Moseley said. Long waiting times at a dock compromises pre-cooling. Then, shippers start checking for proper pre-cooling temperatures due to the new FDA regulations.


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DOT seeks feedback from CDL truck drivers on sleep apnea regulationsMuch has been made of sleep apnea in trucking and the accidents that have resulted when drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel.

So how big of a problem is sleep apnea in trucking, really? With federal regulators considering mandatory sleep apnea requirements right now, we must ask the questions below.

Is sleep apnea among truck drivers as big an issue as it’s made out to be? Or is it being blown out of proportion by media coverage?

The Huffington Post recently took on the issue in an incendiary article written by Michael McAuliffe, the blog’s congressional reporter. In the story, McAuliffe puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of Congress and the trucking lobby. Serious accidents involving truck drivers are the upshot of a “broader trend,” McAuliffe writes.

“It is part of a broader trend of declining safety on the roads after decades of progress. A trend that the United States Congress aided and abetted. They loosened safety rules even as both truck drivers and trucks push to their limits.”

The debate over this issue heightened as sleep apnea received more attention.

The latest round of congressional wrangling started with a fight over snoring, or, more specifically, the obstructive sleep apnea that causes it, McAuliffe writes… The airways of people who suffer from apnea close repeatedly while they sleep, interrupting their breathing dozens of times an hour. They often don’t notice the interruptions, but it leaves them exhausted and prone to doze off during the day.

The Huffington Post story also says the risk of sleep apnea rises dramatically with weight gain, and that research links sleep deprivation to heightened crash risks.

Opinions on sleep apnea among truck drivers differ depending on on the driver. However, one thing is certain. The debate over this issue rages for a long time to come.

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