Hours of Service (HOS) Changes for Truckers

The Hours of Service (HOS) regulations have not been updated since they were first instituted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 1938.  It may be hard to believe that it took eighty-two (82) years for legislators to fully understand that flexibility for HOS was necessary. On May 14, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced changes that finally gave truckers what they were looking for.  That flexibility, depending on variable circumstances that truckers encounter on the road. 

Why Were Electronic Logging Devices Required for Truckers?

Every CDL trucker has been required to have an ELD in their cab since December of 2017.  The electronic logging devices are designed to make sure that a trucker stops for regular rest breaks.  They digitally record through GPS the miles travelled by the truck driver, and how often they stop for rest breaks. 

For most truckers, it has been like having a sweeping control over the hours they work.  The blanketed HOS (hours of service) Federal legislation was designed to make the highways safer.  To address trucker fatigue and reduce motor vehicle collisions that involved commercial trucks.  

To date, trucking accidents account for fewer collisions on American highways than civilian driver accidents.  But when an accident occurs with a heavy truck, it can be catastrophic for a variety of reasons, including cargo weight, and the size of the vehicle comparative to non-commercial cars and trucks.

The accidents are bigger.  The risk of serious injuries and fatalities are greater. And the capital loss of cargo and damage to highways, bridges and overpasses is also much greater than non-commercial collisions.  The concept was simple. Make it mandatory for truckers to take rest breaks so that driver fatigue is not an issue. Conceptually a good idea.  But designed with a blind eye to unique service circumstances, traffic and delays that truckers face every day.

Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) Put More Pressure on Truckers to ‘Rush’ Deadlines

Now that electronic logging devices have been mandatory for almost three years, trucking organizations and advocacy groups have been lobbying hard for change.  Not to change the responsibility and accountability that truckers have to drive safe.  But to add some flexibility to the hours of service (HOS) regulations that have caused many other problems for the American trucking industry.

Mandatory scheduled rest breaks are difficult to accommodate when you are driving in storms or inclement weather conditions.  When truckers encounter road closures, accidents, and other delays that they have to navigate around. This can result in more pressure to meet pick-up or drop-off deadlines, and increase safety incidents.

What New Problems Did ELDs Create for Truckers?

The electronic logging devices (instead of solving problems) created a long list of new ones.  Here are some of the complaints that the trucking industry has been expressing about the new system of tracking miles and rest breaks:

  • ELD technology frequently malfunctions.  From economical ELDs to high-end models, they frequently do not track miles accurately.  This is a big problem because if the reporting of miles and rest breaks is not correct, the trucker can face fines and legal action. In 2018 the FMSCA told Trucks.com in an interview that it had found 330 ELD on the market that did not meet the technical specifications for data transfer.  This is the function that shows driving hours to law enforcement.   Part of the ongoing issue was that ELD manufacturers were permitted to self-certify their products.  They were not tested by a federal safety agency but were told on oversight what each ELD had to report data on. 
  • DAT issued a report from a survey and revealed that almost 68% of truckers across the country said they were driving fewer miles since the ELD rule started.  In the same survey, nearly 71% of truckers indicated they were earning less money as they were required to stop driving after 11 hours.   Bad traffic or drayage dock delays can transform a one-day trip into a two-day trip following HOS requirement.

Large fleets are now required to adjust to HOS restrictions by sending out another driver and truck to pick up a load, if the driver is delayed and out of operational hours for the day.  This results in a reduction in pay, increased fuel costs and drayage delays.  This cost both the carrier and the owner-operator more money.

The Four Changes to Hours of Service That Will Help the Trucking Industry

Changes to the HOS regulations have been fought for by organizations like the American Trucking Associations, and OOIDA the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association particularly.  And the announced changes on May 14th are a step in the right direction. But, not everything that truckers were hoping for.

Here are the four key changes to the HOS regulations:

1. Windows of Driving May Now Be Extended for Adverse Conditions

If drivers find themselves in adverse conditions, including rain, snow, or natural disasters such as flooding, they can be permitted to extend their HOS by up to two hours.

2. Drivers Can Delay the Thirty-Minute Break After Eight Hours of Service

Previously drivers were required to take the 30-minute rest break within an eight-hour period.  Now, they can complete eight hours of driving before taking their mandatory meal and rest break.

3. Truckers Can Meet Ten Hours of Service Off-Duty Requirement With Two Rest Periods

Truck drivers can meet the ten-hour required off duty regulation by taking two periods of rest within that ten-hour period.  To do so, they must log a minimum of seven hours in their sleeper berth, and an additional two hours in or outside of their berth.

This accommodation ends the mandatory 10-hour rest period every day, and eight hours in the berth.  One of the most difficult requirements for truckers under the previous HOS laws.

4. Short-Haulers Must Follow Same Hours of Service Rules at Long-Haul Drivers

Short-haul truckers were exempted from many of the HOS regulations.  They were defined as working an hourly shift, during which they could take standard working breaks over an eight-hour period.  This gave short-haul drivers more flexibility and put long-haul drivers at a significant disadvantage.  Now short haulers are required to follow the same HOS regulations. This makes it fair across the industry. The radius of short-haul trucking has been changed to 150 air miles.

While the HOS regulations are not all that the trucking industry hoped for, and many truckers complained that the regs could have been more accommodating. We think it is a step in the right direction.  If you are a professional CDL trucker in Texas, we would love to hear your feedback about the new HOS regulations.  Are they enough?  What else would you have liked to see a change in the regulations?  Share a comment with us.

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