The Split Duty Period Pilot Program recently proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stems from a petition originally filed in 2018 by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). As outlined by the FMCSA, the program would involve between 200 and 400 drivers who will drive for up to 90 days in an instrumented vehicle.
What’s Involved with the Split Duty Period Pilot Program?
The purpose of this proposed program is to provide temporary relief from the current requirement that the drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) carrying property, must complete all of their driving within 14 hours of starting. Those drivers participating in the pilot program would have the ability to put their 14-hour period of being on duty on hold. During this on-duty period — which is often called a driving window — the driver could pause their hours-of-service (HOS) once for a time frame between 30 minutes and 3 hours.
What Does the FMCSA Hope to Learn From the Program?
During this pilot program, the FMCSA hopes to gather evidence that is statistically reliable regarding the ramifications of this type of flexibility. The agency is seeking to determine if giving commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders the ability to stop their 14-hour driving window will align with shippers’, employers’, and receivers’ preferences for boosting productivity. The other component this program will be measuring is if these productivity expectations can be achieved while maintaining safety performance at an optimal level.
What Are People Saying About This Proposal?
So far, the FMCSA has received more than 430 comments about the split-duty proposal. While most of these are in support of the change, there is significant opposition as well. Many of those who are opposed to it expressed concerns about safety.
There is concern among those who think the proposal is a bad idea because it could potentially mean that drivers are driving later in the day. It is during this time frame — essentially beyond the 14th duty hour — that drivers would likely be more fatigued. This, of course, could translate to an increase in crashes.
Many associations that are designed to protect and support truck drivers see the proposal as a way to increase flexibility and capacity for the industry. The American Trucking Association (ATA), for example, has supported the split-duty program in general while highlighting that some members have safety concerns.
The OOIDA submitted comments in 2019 that found that more than half of its member respondents wouldn’t complete more trips because of this provision. Forty-two percent noted that they would with an average of 1.6 additional trips per week.
Tennessee Trucking Association Vice President of Safety and Member Services’ Donna England noted that drivers are often not able to assist with loading and/or unloading. By using that time to split up their 14-hour on-duty time, drivers can boost their capacity and increase their productivity.
How Will the FMCSA Gather Data?
Drivers chosen for the program will not only drive an instrumented vehicle, they will also receive a smartphone that has data collection applications downloaded by the study and a wrist actigraphy device. If their truck is not equipped with an approved logging device, one will be supplied to them.
Click here to learn more about the pilot program.