It’s here. The dreaded Hours-of-Service (HOS) changes. Drivers, carriers and distributors alike have feared these changes for the last 18 months ever since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced them in December 2011. July 1, 2013 they went into effect and so far, the sky has not fallen, the transportation industry has not come to a complete stop and as far as we can tell, Armageddon has not begun. However that doesn’t make the changes any less difficult to adhere to. These new restrictions impose more stringent rules upon transportation providers, who must comply or face steep penalties for neglecting to do so. So why is the FMCSA making these changes to the existing HOS regulations, what are they and how do they affect freight? The following is a breakdown of the new HOS regulations imposed by the FMCSA and how they are changing the way freight is being moved.
Reduction in work week hours. One of the biggest and most difficult changes the FMCSA has made to the HOS is the reduction in the number of hours drivers are allowed to be behind the wheel in a week from 82 hours to 70. That breaks down to a maximum of 60 hours logged for a driver on a 7-day work week, and a maximum of 70 hours for an 8-day work week. The work week restarts once a driver takes 34 consecutive hours off duty and a restart may only be used once per week, or every 168 hours from the beginning of the previous week. During the 34 hours off-duty each week, there must be two time periods of sleep from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. when the body requires the most rest.
What it means: This is a significant and particularly difficult challenge for trucking companies who still have the same, if not more demand for shipping product but suddenly have fewer hours per driver to do it. This means that trucking companies will need to hire more drivers to meet the same amount of demand, further exemplifying the increasing Driver Shortage. Trucking companies have had 18 months to plan and prepare for these changes so they have likely staffed more drivers and have worked out new driver scheduling processes that adhere to these new FMCSA guidelines, but it will be an ongoing struggle to find enough drivers with enough hours to get shipments delivered on time.
More Required Breaks. The previous daily HOS laws regarding the 11 and 14 hours remain the same. There is also no change to the requirement that drivers must take 10 consecutive hours off duty or in sleeper berth in order to renew their 11 and 14 hour clocks. However, changes to FMCSA regulations now require drivers to take a minimum of a 30 minute break during their first 8 hours on duty, which cannot include loading, unloading, or fueling. All Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV) must adhere to these changes immediately. However, out of concern for the safety of livestock, which would be sitting in the CMV during the summer heat, a 90-day exception has been granted to livestock transportation in regards to this additional 30 minute break.
What it means: This change, while seemingly small in nature, will account for longer overall drive times for shipments that require more than an 8-hour drive. Driver managers and schedulers will have to take this half hour into account when scheduling load pick-up and arrival times. Even if a driver is only an hour away from the drop off location, the driver must take the required 30 minute break within the first 8 hours on duty. One minute past 8 hours on duty and the driver is in violation. The repercussions of this new requirement could cause a driver to arrive late for a pick-up or delivery thus causing the driver to arrive beyond receiving hours for a particular business, delaying the shipment an entire day or more. Shipments which require even longer travel times will be even greater affected.
Whether these changes appear great or small, the penalties for not complying with them can be severe. Driving (or allowing a driver to drive) more than 3 hours beyond the driving-time limit could be considered an egregious violation resulting in an $11,000 fine per offense for the company and a $2,750 fine for the driver. But according to the FMCSA, there is a reason these new regulations are so important. After years of research, the FMCSA believes these changes will save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries per year, which is the ultimate motivation behind the changes. Keeping drivers rested will not only result in safer roads, but also better health conditions for drivers, which according to the FMCSA, will result in an estimated $470 million in savings from improved driver health.
So what about you? Since the changes went into effect, have you noticed any difference in your shipments or in the cost of moving freight? Let us know how the new HOS regulations have affected your business.
Kyle Gholston is a Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) Certified Transportation Broker (CTB) and the Vice President of Conexus.