February 2004 | Commentary | IT Matters

Easing the Impact of HOS Regulations

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With the new Hours of Service (HOS) regulations now in effect for transportation providers, transportation management systems (TMS) are coming to the aid of shippers. The systems help shippers assess the impact of the new guidelines, incorporate the regulations into automated processes, and identify areas of improvement to minimize the financial impact of the regulations system-wide.

New HOS Regulations

In April 2003, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) unveiled the first major update to the HOS regulations since 1939. The focus of the new regulations is to provide drivers with ample time to obtain necessary sleep and rest while meeting the "operational realities" of the industry. Full details, including exceptions, are available at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.

With these new regulations, it becomes even more critical to minimize detention and unloading times as drivers remain on the clock because these time delays are now included in their on-duty hours. Previous regulations did not account for this time against the driver's on-duty hours.

As a result of the new regulations, transportation providers are being challenged to work within the guidelines while making a profit. Some areas that are impacted include lower driver productivity, updating existing fleet tracking systems, and recruiting additional drivers to meet demand.

As carriers face new costs—in addition to rising insurance and engine expenses—shippers are being called upon to partner with their core carriers to minimize HOS-related impact.

Real-Time Management

Using a TMS, shippers can measure detention times, reassess capacity requirements, better estimate inbound times, and improve transportation planning when incorporating the new guidelines. Each of these efforts will improve overall driver productivity and access to needed capacity.

Providing accurate, estimated time of arrival (ETA) for any shipment that takes into consideration the new driver time constraints is one strength of a TMS. The system's event management capabilities can alert the necessary individuals if the desired shipment delivery time occurs before the system's ETA.

To avoid such operational errors, a TMS can notify users in advance of the shipment delivery issue so they can re-route the shipment, change delivery times with the customer, or work with their carrier on alternatives, such as team driving or switching drivers.

Reducing detention times for the driver is also becoming critical. Many organizations are responding by automating their dock appointment scheduling. With a TMS system, dock managers can schedule their docks more efficiently and make changes in real time as required to minimize detention time for the driver.

Using the carrier's shipment status messages, a dock manager can assess which shipments will arrive early, on time, or late, and change their dock schedules in real time to better manage inbound traffic.

For example, if drivers arrive before their allocated delivery appointment at a distribution center, a dock manager will look for open docks and demurrage staffs to accommodate an early unload if possible.

Using a TMS, the manager can quickly assess that one of the planned shipments is running an hour late and will miss its appointment. By switching the appointments of the early and late shipments, the detention time for both drivers can be minimized.

Better Planning for Increased Efficiency

TMS can assist shippers in mitigating the impact of the HOS guidelines on their operations. By using a TMS and partnering with the transportation provider to be proactive in resolving any issues, shippers gain access to real-time information and better planning tools.

Companies without a TMS in place should strongly consider its tangible benefits in addition to HOS compliance monitoring, including optimized planning, cross-enterprise visibility, and the automated management of their shipments that offer savings of five to 15 percent annually.

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