All drivers get caught in adverse driving conditions from time to time, so hours of service (HOS) regulations include an adverse driving conditions exception.
In September 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) updated HOS rules, resulting in changes to the exemption.
This article will focus on adverse driving conditions and what the HOS exemption update means to you and your fleet.
What are adverse driving conditions?
According to the FMCSA, applicable circumstances to the exemption include:
“Snow, sleet, fog, other adverse weather conditions, a highway covered with snow or ice, or unusual road and traffic conditions, none of which were apparent on the basis of information known to the person dispatching the run at the time it was begun.”
This accounts for all delays caused by unforeseeable events like unexpected blizzards or backed up traffic following an accident. If you’re wondering what might be covered under the ‘other adverse conditions’ definition, the answer includes any factors that inhibit a driver’s ability to continue their route safely. Examples include:
- Low visibility
- Sun glare
- Reduced traction
The adverse driving conditions exemption
The adverse driving conditions exemption allows drivers to extend their driving limit and on-duty hours. This provides a time buffer to either pull off the road and wait for unexpected conditions to pass or reduce speed for a slower overall route completion time – both of which are preferable to pushing forward in adverse road conditions.
In the previous version of the exemption, drivers could extend their driving limit from 11 to 13 hours within their shift but could not extend their overall on-duty hours past the 14-hour window. The new rules still allow for two additional hours on the road, but drivers are now also allowed to extend their on-duty limit by two hours. So, in layman’s terms, they may now drive for up to 13 hours within 16 hours of coming on duty.
When does it apply?
FMCSA adverse driving conditions criteria are strict, and the exemption only applies when the weather or traffic conditions in question were unknown at the start of a driver’s shift. Any drivers dispatched after the notification of adverse conditions are not eligible for the extra drive or shift time.
Fleet managers and drivers have an array of GPS tools and route management technology at their disposal, so they are expected to be reasonably aware of potential conditions before each shift begins. As such, the adverse weather conditions definition does not cover routes that include forecasted storms. Nor does the exemption account for routine traffic jams or standard rush hour congestion that should already be incorporated into the route.
Under no circumstances should the rule be used for organizational considerations such as:
- Loading and unloading delays
- Staff shortages
- Vehicle breakdown
- Customer demands
- Driver preferences
What is the purpose of the adverse driving conditions exemption?
The adverse driving conditions exemption permits fleet managers and drivers to exert caution and take extra time to complete routes when faced with unexpected conditions. There are several advantages to this, including:
- Reduced likelihood of speeding and other unsafe driving behaviors, as there is less pressure on drivers to complete their journey before bad weather sets in
- Limiting fatigue that could compromise driver safety and the welfare of other road users
- Avoiding potential accidents that could cause loss or damage to company vehicles and cargo
- Better risk management across the board, leading to improved Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores
Fleet managers and drivers should note that the adverse driving conditions exemption does not supersede other HOS rules. For example, even when driving hours and shift windows are extended, the 8-hour driving and 30-minute break rules still apply.
There are no specific record-keeping requirements involved in the adverse driving conditions exemption. However, the FMCSA does recommend drivers update their logs and timesheets as soon as events occur so that they can be audited and checked for compliance on request.
Finally, if adverse driving conditions last longer than two hours, drivers are expected to pull off the road, update their logs accordingly, and wait until their next shift to complete the route.
Is your fleet prepared for adverse driving conditions?
Are you worried about navigating the exemption? Searching for more advanced solutions to deliver better safety decisions and route planning? Or simply looking to transition from paper logs and timesheets to ELDs for improved tracking and DOT compliance?
Lytx® is an industry leader in fleet management technology, including fleet tracking, HOS management, DOT compliance software, and fleet safety. We can help streamline your fleet and compliance operations so that you can focus on keeping your drivers safer and your business thriving.