Hours of Service Compliance – Making Sense of the Madness

If I have 12 popsicles and you’re walking 7 dogs, what time is it when little Suzie spills her finger paints? Seems ridiculous, but I’d wager many carriers feel exactly the same way about trying to manage Hours of Service compliance on paper logs. (Emphasis on “trying.”) I also suspect that the added complexity of the new 34-hour reset rule will be followed by a rising demand for fleet managers holding degrees in Advanced Calculus. In short, Hours of Service compliance is becoming a sticky wicket.

At XUE, our Making Compliance Easy session drew a large audience. Clearly, this is an area that has carriers and drivers concerned. What is the new rule, exactly? How will it impact your fleet? And how can you make staying HOS compliant a snap?

Let’s get to the bottom of it…

The HOS Rules, they are a-changin’…

In December, the FMCSA announced new Hours of Service rule changes. They come in three parts, and will become effective on July 1, 2013. Here’s what you need to know:

•    34-hour reset
Your drivers may only use the 34-hour reset once every 168 hours. The clock won’t start counting their next 34-hour reset until 168 hours after their last qualifying reset began.

Now, here’s where managing your HOS will get really tricky…

That 34-hour reset must also contain two complete 1AM – 5AM periods. If a driver goes off duty at 1:05AM, too bad—that 1AM – 5AM period won’t be counted as complete, and it will be another 51 hours and 55 minutes until that driver will complete a full 34-hour reset.

•    Mandatory breaks
Drivers are only permitted to drive if 8 hours or less have passed since their last 30-minute off-duty break. This new rest break rule essentially shortens a driver’s on-duty time from 14 hours to 13-1/2.

Add this into the 34-hour reset mix, and my head’s starting to spin…

•    “Off Duty” definition change
The FMCSA wanted to make off-duty and sleeper berth more flexible, considering it was requested 120+ times in their Hours of Service listening sessions. The rule will now make taking such a break more logistically feasible with an altered definition of off-duty time. Now, drivers may log up to 2 hours of off-duty time (including the 30-minute break mentioned above) while in a moving vehicle, provided they’re chilling in the passenger seat as a co-driver. Caveat: That newly offered off-duty time must immediately precede or immediately follow 8 consecutive hours of sleeper berth time, and it can be split before and after the 8 hours of sleeper berth.

A second change: A driver resting in a parked CMV was previously required to log that time as on-duty, but is now permitted to record it as off-duty time.

Driver e-logs offer method amidst the madness

Is your head swimming yet? The fact is, as the Hours of Service rule becomes more and more complex, the “opportunity” to make mistakes will grow exponentially. And Hours of Service violations can mean fewer shipping contracts, higher insurance premiums, even out-of-service orders. Carriers that attempt to operate on paper logs will find it darned near impossible to remain violation-free going forward—and that could be the death knell for their businesses.

Electronic driver logs, however, can make sense of the madness and keep fleets HOS compliant. E-logs, like our new XRS mobile fleet management platform, offer various levels of automated reporting and alerts. For example:

Helpful driver alerts signal:
•    When it’s time to take a break (with enough advance warning to find a safe and convenient place to rest)
•    Missed breaks and subsequent violations
•    Advanced notice of when their 34-hour reset will be complete, so they can plan to come back on duty on time

Supervisor alerts and reports keep the home office on top of Hours of Service compliance with:
•    Real-time missed break alerts
•    Violation reports, including egregious violations reports that note drivers who’ve exceeded the 11-hour rule by more than 3 hours; a new classification of violation that carries significant penalties

Making the switch to electronic logging devices has never been more critical to your business’s bottom line.

If you ask me, it’s time to find a better use for those paper logs. Personally, I think they’ve got great paper airplane potential…