The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last week granted ready-mix concrete haulers exemptions from two specific Hours of Service (HOS) regulations.
The first exemption is from the 30-minute rest break requirement. FMCSA explained that the exemption “will enable drivers transporting ready-mixed concrete and related materials and equipment in vehicles other than those outfitted with rotating mixer drums to use 30 minutes or more of on-duty ‘waiting time’ to satisfy the requirement for the 30-minute rest break, provided they do not perform any other work during the break.”
The second exemption has to do with the short-haul exception from keeping records of duty status (RODS) where drivers must return to their starting location/ depot within 12 hours of coming on duty. These drivers will be allowed to use the short-haul exception and return to their work-reporting location within 14 hours instead of the usual 12 hours.
Both the new exemptions are granted for up to five years, after which FMCSA said they may be renewed. Similar exemptions were provided to concrete-related delivery drivers in 2015 as part of the federal Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (known as the FAST Act), and the American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA) sought these new exemptions.
According to ACPA, concrete mixtures are perishable, and all steps in the transport process of a typical paving project are time-critical. “Employees must coordinate and direct a complex series of logistical steps, one of the most important elements of which is the delivery of the concrete within a time frame specified by the transportation agency or owner,” the association told the FMCSA in its request for exemptions.
The concrete, according to ACPA, is “made to order, then delivered by end-dump trucks so there is a steady and constant delivery of material that keeps pace with the paving equipment.”
The organization successfully argued that any issues that delay the “well-orchestrated, just-in-time delivery of concrete” can result in batches being rejected by inspectors and a paving operation being shut down temporarily, all of which cause time and cost overruns. Successful concrete delivery from plant to the paving site is arguably one of the most important factors in a paving process, the ACPA told the FMCSA.
ACPA requested the second exemption to allow the same drivers to use the short-haul RODS exception with a 14-hour duty period instead of 12 hours, according to the FMCSA. The association successfully argued that while some drivers can take advantage of the 30-minute break, other drivers are often required to be on duty more than 12 hours a day, making them ineligible for the short-haul exception.
Because of this short delivery window for ready-mixed concrete, “the routes from the production facility to the delivery site for both products are limited to less than 40 miles, and the time spent driving a CMV is typically only a few hours per day,” according to public comments in favor of the exemptions filed by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). “Thus, in both cases, the drivers do not face the same fatigue factors as drivers of long-haul trucks, and therefore do not pose the same risk of a fatigue-related accident as long-haul drivers.’’
The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) argued that concrete equipment drivers should not be subject to the same regulations as other commercial drivers.
“Many of our drivers spend substantial amounts of time off the road during the work day, loading and unloading materials or equipment,” ARTBA wrote in support of the exemptions. “Others may be responsible for positioning a piece of mobile equipment at the beginning of the workday, but may not be back behind the wheel until day’s end, so that their daily drive time is actually minimal.’’
ACPA told FMCSA “that drivers would remain subject to all other HOS regulations and would receive sufficient rest due to the nature of their operations that limit driving to an average of 80-100 miles per day during the paving season,” according to the Federal Registry filing. “ACPA believes that granting these exemptions would achieve the same level of safety provided by compliance with the two HOS rules.”
The government received 29 public comments about ACPA’s two requests. “Nearly all the respondents supported the requested exemptions, along with AGC and ARTBA, trucking and construction companies and individuals affiliated with the concrete paving industry voiced their support.
One anonymous comment sent to FMCSA opposed the exemption. ‘‘I ask that the 30- minute break remain a requirement,” wrote the unnamed individual. “Further, I ask that the department consider revising the rules so that drivers engaged in physically demanding unloading within a 100-air-mile radius are limited to 12 hours on duty rather than 14 or 16.’’
But FMCSA sided with ACPA, writing: “The Agency believes that all drivers transporting ready-mixed concrete and related materials and equipment in vehicles other than those outfitted with rotating mixer drums, will likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to or greater than, the level of safety achieved without the exemptions.”