The Obama Administration’s hours-of-service regulations for truckers is getting another look by the U.S. Department of Transportation, an action that U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) said could end the harm current federal rules have on smaller trucking businesses in her home state and across the nation.

“I’m thrilled to see the Department of Transportation offer up an alternative,” said Rep. Noem, referencing the Aug. 21 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The FMCSA is currently seeking comments by Sept. 20 on four aspects of the hours-of-service (HOS) rules that could change: the short-haul HOS limit; the HOS exception for adverse driving conditions; the 30-minute rest break provision; and the split-sleeper berth rule.

“No one wants to compromise when it comes to safety, but hours-of-service regulations place unnecessary strain on South Dakota trucking operations,” Rep. Noem said. “I’m hopeful they will listen to the feedback of South Dakota truckers and make the right decision that provides added flexibility for those responsible for moving our food supply.”

The specific FMCSA considerations include expanding the current 100-air-mile short-haul exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, which is consistent with rules for long-haul drivers, according to a statement from the congresswoman’s office.

The agency also will consider extending the 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a driver encounters adverse driving conditions; revising the mandatory 30-minute break for drivers after eight hours of continuous driving; and reinstating the option to split the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks with sleeper compartments, according to the statement.

Vendors of electronic logging devices (ELDs) are encouraged by the agency to submit comments addressing “the potential implementation issues should changes to the HOS rules be made,” according to a DOT notice published on Aug. 23 in the Federal Register.

Rep. Noem is a co-sponsor of the ELD Extension Act of 2017, H.R. 3282, which would delay for an additional two years the effective date of regulations implementing the requirement that a commercial motor vehicle involved in interstate commerce and operated by a driver subject to federal HOS and record of duty status regulations be equipped with an ELD to improve vehicle operator compliance with HOS regulations, according to the congressional record summary.

H.R. 3282, introduced by U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), has 73 other GOP cosponsors and one Democrat cosponsor. The bill currently is under consideration by the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

Earlier this year, Rep. Noem and several House colleagues requested exemptions for small businesses with exemplary safety records in a Feb. 1 letter she sent to Cathy Gautreaux, deputy administrator of the FMCSA.

“FMCSA has already granted several requests for exemption from the ELD mandate,” Noem wrote. “Clearly, the agency is capable and willing to provide relief for industries who have demonstrated that exemptions will not decrease safety.”

She noted that lawmakers want the FMCSA to grant an application for relief from the estimated $2-billion mandate submitted by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. The members wrote that the association’s request is “unquestionably consistent” with already-approved exemptions, and is also “wholly consistent with the Trump Administration’s goal of providing relief from costly and burdensome federal regulations to American small businesses.”

Among those joining Rep. Noem in signing the letter were U.S. Reps. John Moolenar (R-MI), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Darin LaHood (R-IL), Bill Huizenga (R-MI), David Valadao (R-CA), and Mike Kelly (R-PA).

On Aug. 24, the FMCSA will hold a listening session at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. The event will be webcast and will allow anyone from the public to comment on the items listed in the agency’s advance proposed rulemaking (Docket Number FMCSA-2018-0248).

“This is no home run,” Rep. Noem said about the FMCSA deciding to take comments, “but it’s a step in the right direction.”

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