Brief History of the Rule: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Regulation introduced the 30-minute rest break rule in December 2011, which essentially barred most commercial vehicles from driving more than 8 hours without first taking at least a 30-minute break providing minimal exemptions from the rule other than for drivers transporting explosives and hazardous materials.
To be compliant, the 30-minute rest break must appear in the driver’s logs as “off-duty” or “sleeper berth” meaning that the driver must be free of any work related obligations and cannot perform any other work related tasks regardless of whether such work exists and needs to be done prior to a driver hitting the road. Translation of this rule to most industry members= waste of the time and resources.
(See: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/title49/part/395 for full text on this rule)
Since this rule became effective in July 2013, it has been subject to controversy and has created a host of drama between the FMCSA and other industry groups like the American Trucking Association (ATA) and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) discussed below.
ATA’s Scuffle with the FMCSA’s Hours-Of-Service Regulations: After the ATA’s petition to the FMCSA challenging the hours-of-service regulations to the FMCSA was denied, the ATA turned to the judicial system for their review. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reviewed the hours-of-service regulations and upheld the regulations in all respects except for the 30-minute break requirement for short-haul drivers. Following the ruling, the FMCSA revised the rule to reflect the court’s decision. However, this was not the end of the disagreements between the FMCSA and the ATA and/or many other industry members. Most recently, on March 28, 2106, the FMCSA announced its denial of the application submitted by the ATA for an exemption from another hours-of-service regulation after granting several similar requests from other industry members.
Exemptions from the 30-minute Rest Break: The 30-minute rest break rule continues to be in the industry’s spotlight- especially relevant is the number of industry members that the FMCSA has deemed exempt from the rule through the avenue provided by the FMCSA’s regulations themselves.
The FMCSR’s (part 381) provides the process for industry members to apply to become exempt from the rule, which some believe the FMCSA is granting much too frequently. To qualify for an exemption from the 30-minute break rule, the FMCSA must deem that an equivalent level of safety can be maintained under the exception amongst other factors.
CVSA’s Beef with the 30-minute rest break: The CVSA is amongst the industry members not in support the 30-minute rest break rule and have been since its enactment in 2013. In fact, if you flip through the CVSA’s online regulatory updates from 2013 to the present, the 30-minute rest break rule is consistently mentioned and it becomes obvious that the CVSA has been tracking any activity related to this rule. The CVSA maintains and provides access to a list of active exemptions issued by FMCSA as part of their membership with the CVSA- encouraging the industry’s awareness.
The CVSA believes that there is no supporting evidence that the break requirement improves a driver’s overall operational capabilities or increases safety contrary to the claims of the FMCSA; also, the CVSA does not approve of the growing amount of exemptions being granted.
The CVSA recently vocalized their stance on exemptions by filing a formal petition with the FMCSA requesting the rule be deleted. While the petition was filed in late October, it was only recently made public on a new FMCSA website that [I’m sure begrudgingly] complies with a FAST action provision providing that the agency must publish a summary of all petitions that request regulatory action and prioritize the petitions based on the likelihood of safety improvements. (Link:https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/FMCSA_Petitions_4_1_2016.pdf)
Transport Topics discussed the CVSA’s petition last month in an article, “CVSA Asks Federal Regulators to Rescind HOS Rest-Break Requirement”. The article quotes CVSA Executive Director Collin Mooney stating that the CVSA does not object to these exemptions on an individual basis, but rather they object to the confusion and inconsistency that the numerous and frequent exemptions being granted by the FMCSA is causing the enforcement process. Specifically, the 30-minute rest break creates more difficulty for roadside inspectors and law enforcement officers to verify compliance and that if there has to be a rule it should be applied to everyone across the board. What do you think?
The future of the CVSA’s pending petition is uncertain. Is it fair to expect enforcement on only the decreasing number of non-exempt industry members? Is there potential judicial involvement ahead? Will the outcome be different now that the exemption numbers are growing? Will this lead to reform?
We don’t know, yet. Check our future blog posts for updates on the outcome of the pending CVSA’s petition.
Emily Littlefield is an associate attorney at Roberts Perryman. Emily’s practice focuses on transportation, insurance coverage and defense.
Roberts Perryman has been a leader in transportation defense for over 50 years with offices in St. Louis and Springfield, MO and Belleville, IL. http://www.robertsperryman.com