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Striking While The Iron is Hot; AED Takes Lead On Hours-Of-Service Issue

This past October, AED submitted comments to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) urging reforms to the federal hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. The Association’s comments were in response to the FMCSA’s “advance notice of proposed rulemaking” (ANPRM) and largely called for the FMCSA to grant a “service truck exemption” from HOS requirements to give AED members relief from the onerous regulations.

Hours-of-service issues have been on AED’s radar for many years. However, with the electronic logging device mandate taking effect, many of the challenges AED members faced with the hours-of-service regulations were exacerbated. The current HOS regulations have been in place since 2012, but electronic enforcement has given them a new breadth. Daniel B. Fisher, AED’s vice president of government affairs stated, “With an administration in place that’s willing to work with the business community on regulatory reforms, and in particular is committed to making commonsense changes to the hours-of-service rules, it’s the ideal time to seek modifications that will provide necessary relief  for equipment dealers.”

HOS BACKGROUND / THE PROBLEM

Due to the gross vehicle weight of many field service vehicles, technicians/drivers in the heavy equipment industry are subject to the FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations. These regulations were drawn up primarily for longhaul truckers. This presents difficulties for AED’s member dealers, as the job functions of a long-haul trucker are far different from the job functions of a highly skilled and trained service technician.

For these field service technicians, operating a commercial vehicle is incidental to their primary job responsibilities. Field service technicians typically drive less than 150 miles per day, and 80 percent of their duty time is spent on non-driving activities. Moreover, the seasonal nature of the construction and utilities industries that utilize heavy equipment places a premium on efficient operations. The construction season in the United States is limited to the warmer months, which requires maximum efficiency in operations to meet demand, particularly in the northern states. AED members must often have their technicians work long hours to meet seasonal demand for their services and products, and they face a significant shortage of diesel technicians to service heavy equipment and drive service trucks.

The FMCSA has granted partial and total exemptions from the HOS regulations to several other industries with driving practices significantly different from those of long-haul truckers. Utility service vehicle drivers and asphalt and concrete drivers all enjoy exemptions from the HOS regulations, and AED believes heavy equipment field service technicians would similarly benefit. These exemptions were granted because of the unique circumstances faced by industry drivers, including many of the same circumstances faced by heavy equipment field service technicians.

AED’S COMMENT AT A GLANCE

The Association requested that the FMCSA grant a “service truck exemption” from HOS requirements. Given that operating a commercial motor vehicle is incidental to a service technician’s primary job responsibilities and they do not face the same demands or fatigue concerns as long-haul truck drivers, AED asserts that a blanket exemption from the HOS regulations for equipment service trucks is the most efficient and safest approach.

In case the FMCSA does not see fit to exempt service trucks from HOS regulations, AED alternatively proposed supports for certain reforms that will provide some regulatory relief for equipment dealers, including the following:

  • Providing one set of HOS rules for shorthaul operations, wherein CDL drivers would be exempt from requirements if they operate within 150 air-miles of the work-reporting location and complete the work day within 14 hours
  • Eliminating the short-haul rule’s requirement of the driver returning to the work-reporting location to establish the origin point for that duty period. Essentially, rather than having to check back in at home base every day, field service technicians could commute from their home to their work site, saving time and fuel
  • Granting drivers the flexibility to extend the 14-hour daily duty window by up to three hours in a single off-duty break
  • Allowing drivers to drive for an additional two hours beyond the 14-hour driving window during adverse conditions, such as inclement weather


THE CONSTRUCTION COALITION


In addition to filing its own comments, AED joined the broader construction industry, including the Associated General Contractors of America, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the National Utility Contractors Association and the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, to seek changes to the hours-of-service regulations on behalf of the entire construction sector. The Construction Coalition’s comments are very similar to AED’s, although AED’s comments discuss a service truck exemption and the broader coalition is seeking a construction industry exemption (which includes service trucks).

The Coalition correctly points out that a piecemeal approach to rules, exceptions and exemptions that vary depending on the type of vehicle operated, the type of property carried, and/or the type of service provided can be tough to interpret, follow and enforce. After all, many within the industry find it difficult to comprehend the scope and applicability of all the various permutations of the current HOS regulations, let alone implementing them in daily operations.

Following review of the comments, the FMCSA is expected to release a proposed rule in the coming months. AED will continue to work with FMCSA and congressional allies to provide regulatory relief to equipment dealers from the burdensome hours-of-service regulations.

If you have any questions or input related to the HOS comments or other policy issues, please contact AED’s Vice President of Government Affairs Daniel B. Fisher at dfisher@aednet.org.

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