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PCCA Update: Hours-of-Service Regulations and Exemption on Utility Service Vehicles

The Power and Communications Contractors Association (PCCA), whose members install and replace power, broadband, and other telecom infrastructure, has a vested interest in “Hours of Service” (HOS) regulations overseen by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA). PCCA members regularly respond to utility service calls to maintain and repair essential utility services and “keep the lights on” for hundreds of millions on Americans.

PCCA members maintain significant numbers of utility fleets that are impacted by HOS regulations and are particularly concerned with the pending electronic logging device (ELD) regulations.

§ 395.2. of FMSCA regulations defines a Utility Service Vehicle (USV) as a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) “used in the furtherance of repairing, maintaining, or operating any structures or any other physical facilities necessary for the delivery of public utility services, including the furnishing of electric, gas, water, sanitary sewer, telephone, and television cable or community antenna service; and

“While engaged in any activity necessarily related to the ultimate delivery of such public utility services to consumers, including travel or movement to, from, upon, or between activity sites (including occasional travel or movement outside the service area necessitated by any utility emergency as determined by the utility provider); and

“Except for any occasional emergency use, operated primarily within the service area of a utility's subscribers or consumers, without regard to whether the vehicle is owned, leased, or rented by the utility.”

“§ 395.1 (n) of the regulations states that “[t]he provisions of this part shall not apply to a driver of a utility service vehicle as defined in § 395.2.”

PCCA members rely on the exemption provided in § 395.1 (n) to effectively and reliably perform their important work to repair and maintain utility services. However, because of mounting confusion in the field about the applicability of the exemption to utility companies and their contractors, especially in light of pending ELD requirements, PCCA recently went straight to the source to get the facts.

After a productive discussion with several members of FMSCA’s Driver and Carrier Operations Division, PCCA is happy to announce that USVs, including those maintained by contractors, fall under the § 395.1 (n) exemption.

FMCSA confirmed that the work performed by PCCA members that includes “repairing, maintaining, or operating” as defined in § 395.2 would be considered exempt from HOS regulation, including maintenance, emergency, and upgrade work. FMCSA was very clear that working on new construction of these facilities would not be considered exempt.

It is important to note that the exception from the HOS rules for the USV operator must be applied on a trip-by-trip basis to the operator of a particular vehicle because the exemption is entirely dependent upon the use of the vehicle at any point in time.

PCCA will be providing further guidance on this issue in the Quarter 4 issue of the PCCA Journal and at