The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, under the United States Department of Transport, regulates the hours of service for interstate commercial motor carriers. The rules for commercial commodity transport carriers are as follows
- 14-Hour Driving Window: A driver, who has taken consecutive 10-hour off duty, is allowed a driving window of the next consecutive 14 hours.
- 11-Hour Driving Limit: In the 14-hour driving window, a driver is allowed to drive for a maximum of 11 hours.
- Rest Breaks: A driver must take a 30-minute break after driving for 8 hours.
- 60/70 hour limit: A driver can remain on duty for not more than a period of 60 hours in 7 days, and 70 hours in 8 days.
- 34-hour restart: This rule helps the drivers to completely refresh their driving cycle. If they take 34-hours of consecutive rest from duty, they can start their driving afresh.
- Sleeper berth provision: 14-hour limit minimizes the period as well as the number of breaks. Drivers can log 8 hours of sleeper berth time to get an extension on the 14-hour limit.
The HOS rules have been laid down by the DOT mainly for safety reasons. Most accidents involving trucks have one major cause – driver fatigue. The HOS rules make it mandatory for truck drivers to take a much-needed break, rest up and get back on the road. These rules not only ensure that drivers are safe and have a better work environment, but also ensure the safety of other drivers and passengers on the road.
Since the rules were implemented, motor carrier companies, and especially truck drivers have been critical of them. Here are a few reasons why HOS is not well-received by truckers and their companies.
- Truck drivers do not really follow the same schedule every week. Depending on the availability, their work hours are bound to change. So adhering to HOS rules becomes strenuous.
- Fleet managers now have to take a lot of calculations into consideration before allotting work to the drivers. It has become their added responsibility to ensure that the drivers strictly follow HOS, as violations often bring severe penalties.
- The 30-minute break, 14-hour driving window, and 11-hour driving limit reduce scheduling flexibility, and proper resting period for drivers. For example, if a driver starts duty at 8 AM, then their 14-hour driving window ends at 10 PM. Now if a driver starts driving at 8:30 AM, they are bound to take a 30 minutes break at 4:30 PM, then their 11-hour driving limit ends 8 PM. This is just one scenario. It helps explain that the limits eliminate flexibility and add more stress to an already stressful job.
- The 14-hour driving window starts as soon as driver checks in, and nothing stops the clock. Even if the driver sleeps during this time or takes a break or is at the loading/unloading dock, the clock keeps running. Fleet managers and drivers, therefore, have to work very closely with other businesses to avoid wastage of time and get as much work done as possible.
- The limits have been implemented to make driving safer. But often, drivers who are trying to finish a job, racing against a clock, are more prone to be at the risk of accidents.
With ELD mandate, the recording of HOS and any violations are automatic, accurate and tamper-free. The drivers have to comply with HOS as well as ELD restrictions in order to avoid strict fines and penalties. The trucking industry is urging DOT to grant some leniency in HOS rules so that drivers can be benefited. As FMCSA has set a final deadline for ELD implementation, it is also looking into possible positive changes in the HOS. Until then, fleet managers and drivers will have to simply plan their route smartly, and make the most of the driving time.