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Understanding The Adverse Driving Conditions Exception – Matrack Insight

There has been a lot of weather-related news this winter, from powerful winter storms carrying heavy rain and strong wind to a hurricane. The repercussions of these powerful storms cause tremendous damage to homes and the loss of lives. In light of that, let us look at the effects of severe weather and hazardous driving conditions on motor carriers’ operations and the Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations.

When adverse driving conditions arise: snow storms, icy roads, and other extreme weather, you must be fully prepared to navigate these dangers without losing precious time or putting lives at risk to deliver your goods safely and securely. Preparing for adverse conditions should be part of the standard policy as per Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA – HOS Final Rule).

HOS Regulations Summary

You must be familiar with HOS regulations for operating a commercial motor vehicle. In the United States, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has enforced rules limiting the number of hours property-carrying commercial motor vehicles (CMV) drivers can work and drive. The primary purpose of Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations is to ensure that drivers operating commercial motor vehicles are taking adequate rest breaks and not working excessively long hours.

  • Truck drivers can operate their vehicles for a maximum of 11 hours in a 14-hour shift. 
  • Drivers must also use an electronic logging device(ELD) to record their duty status regularly.
  • The rules also require minimum periods for off-duty rests between shifts and weekly limits to reset the clock each week.

Adverse driving Conditions are an exception to the hours of service (HOS) rules because drivers are occasionally subject to adverse driving conditions. In September 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) updated HOS rules, resulting in changes to the exemption.

What Are Adverse Conditions?

Adverse Driving Conditions are any situation affecting driving safety and putting drivers at risk. The FMCSA defines adverse driving conditions as snow, ice, sleet, fog, or other adverse weather conditions or unusual road or traffic conditions that were not known, or could not reasonably be known, too:

  • A driver before beginning the duty day or before beginning driving after a qualifying rest break or sleeper berth period, or 
  • A motor carrier immediately before dispatching the driver.

The adverse conditions exception protects drivers from being penalized for operating their vehicles in extreme weather or road conditions. The exception of adverse conditions may apply to drivers who encounter weather or road conditions that are not expected and pose a greater-than-normal crash risk. This exception can be used as a defense by drivers when they are cited for violating specific safety regulations while driving in inclement weather or on roads with poor surface quality. By using the adverse conditions exception, drivers can prove they were not at fault due to factors beyond their control. For exemption from Hours of Service rules for commercial motor vehicles, these conditions must significantly increase hazard levels for the driver.

HOS Exemption Due to Adverse Driving Conditions 

The FMCSA’s revised Hours-of-Service (HOS) standards include an exception known as the adverse conditions exception that allows commercial truck drivers to extend their driving limit and on-duty hours. This gives drivers enough time to pull over and wait for unforeseen circumstances to pass or to slow down for a longer overall route completion time. All of these options are better than continuing on inclement weather-related roads.

The FMCSA included these exceptions to the Hours-of-Service in 2020, which now permits drivers to increase their driving and on-duty restrictions by 2 hours. Before the updated guidance, the old regulations only allowed drivers to extend their driving limit, not their on-duty limit, by 2 hours.

  1. As a result, drivers can extend their 11-hour driving limit and 14-hour driving window by up to 2 hours if they run into bad weather while traveling.
  2. Drivers may travel an additional two hours to their destination if they cannot safely complete their tasks within the 13-hour maximum driving duration. Drivers are still limited to 16 hours when they are on duty.
  3. Other HOS regulations still apply despite the unfavorable driving circumstances exception. For instance, the 8-hour driving and 30-minute break requirements remain effective even when shift windows and driving hours are extended.

For truckers, this means that they should always check their current routes ahead of time before beginning a trip and make sure that any pre-trip plans also include detailed information about exception criteria or alternative travel arrangements if necessary. 

What Does the Exemption for Adverse Driving Conditions Serve?

The exception prevents drivers from getting a penalty for events out of their control. And also to allow them to proceed with their trip without endangering themselves or others.

Fleet managers and drivers can exercise caution and take extra time to finish routes when facing unforeseen and unfavorable driving conditions. This has several benefits, including:

  • Better Risk Management for adverse weather conditions and prevents mishaps that can result in the loss or destruction of human life or cargo.
  • Higher FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Program scores
  • There is no pressure on drivers to complete their journey before inclement weather arrives, and thus a lower possibility that they may speed or engage in other risky driving habits.
  • Reduce their risk of a fatigue-related crash.

Applying Adverse Driving Conditions Exceptions

The exception only applies when the weather or traffic circumstances in question were unknown at the beginning of a driver’s shift due to the stringent requirements of the FMCSA regarding unfavorable driving conditions. Drivers deployed after the bad weather was announced are not eligible for the exceptions.

Drivers can make use of the FMCSA’s exception to the hours of service rule for poor driving conditions by doing the following:

  1. Assess the adverse conditions: To determine if you can safely complete your trip within the regular hours of operation, you must first determine whether the weather or road conditions are bad.
  2. Communicate to your fleet manager: By using the adverse conditions exception, you must inform your fleet manager of the adverse conditions.
  3. Record the unfavorable circumstances: The FMCSA does advise drivers to update the record of duty status (RODS) as soon as something happens so that they can be audited for compliance upon request. Hence you must record the adverse conditions exception on your ELD, including the date, time, and particulars that made it challenging to finish your trip within the regular service hours.
  4. Resume as quickly as feasible to active duty status: Once the unfavorable circumstances have waned, resume your regular duty status and adhere to the schedule as much as possible.
  5. Apply for adverse exemptions sparingly: Use exemptions only when they are in the best interest of the safety of drivers and other road users. Therefore, it is not and should not be utilized as a workaround for the HOS regulations, leading to HOS log breaches and likely drawing more investigations and citations from the FMCSA.

Fleet managers and drivers are expected to be relatively informed of prospective conditions before each shift because they can access various GPS tools and route management systems. As a result, routes expected to experience storms are not included in poor weather conditions. 

The exemption does not account for common traffic bottlenecks or peak hour congestion that must be considered while planning the route. It’s important to note that this exception does not give drivers or carriers permission to exceed daily duty limitations! It only applies in exceptional and infrequent circumstances when motorists face unpredictable conditions that make it difficult to safely finish a run or locate a safe resting location given their allotted hours. This is where drivers and carriers typically find themselves in difficulties, in our experience.

Is Your Fleet Ready for Adverse Driving Conditions?

Drivers and carriers must comply with the HOS final rule starting September 29, 2020, and not before. All Drivers must automatically annotate or makes notes on their ELD device if they experience unfavorable conditions. Your ELD provider must also complete the exemption available to use it. In some cases, ELD providers do not offer Adverse driving conditions exceptions, making it difficult for trucking businesses to get the most out of their Hours of Service.

However, that differs from Matrack ELD provider, which values HOS flexibility. Are you concerned about using the exemption correctly? Are you looking for cutting-edge solutions for better route planning and safety decisions? Or do you want ELDs for better tracking and DOT compliance?

Matrack’s fleet management solutions can help drivers stay safe and comply with all conditions. Matrack Inc’s Electronic Logging Device (ELD) is accurate, real-time tracking of driver hours and FMCSA compliance with Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. With Matrack, owners/operators can easily monitor driver behavior, track service hours, reduce fuel consumption, and improve the overall efficiency of their fleet. The innovative features allow Matrack ELD to eliminate paperwork and manual logging and simplify driver compliance.

Matrack is a market leader in fleet management, HOS management, DOT compliance software, and fleet safety. You can focus on keeping your drivers safe and your business prospering; we can help you optimize your fleet and compliance processes.

Severe weather is unpredictable. However, if Matrack is your ELD supplier, it won’t necessarily affect your HOS Compliance any longer. Matrack ELD makes the adverse condition exemption available to you and your fleet. Get the ultimate advantage in safety with Matrack ELD today. Please get in touch with our staff right away for further details or schedule a demo.