How to Manage Hours-of-Service Regulations Compliance

Tags: Trucking, Legislation, Public Policy, and Regulations, Labor Management

Truck driver behind the wheel

Now that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules have entered into force, trucking companies and shippers need to account for these regulatory changes. Any company that is working in a fast-paced, time-definite shipping environment is especially vulnerable.

The new HOS regulations feature two key provisions:

  • Limitations on minimum "34-hour restarts." Where previously any 34-hour break would allow drivers a "restart," the 34-hour period now mandates two 1 a.m.-to-5 a.m. periods. The clock doesn't reset with the start of the rest period, but rather the beginning of the restart. A driver can only take one 34-hour restart in 168 hours, once a week. Without proper planning, the 34-hour window can turn into a 50-hour window.
  • Rest breaks. Long-haul truck drivers can still work 14 hours in a day, but they may not work more than eight consecutive hours without taking a 30-minute rest break. This means that drivers must be properly trained and monitored to ensure they are following regulations. Routes and schedules must be adapted to accommodate these breaks.

As a consequence of these changes, shippers and consignees need to be more proactive about how they schedule and accommodate deliveries to ensure drivers remain in compliance, and that they don't incur any undue delays or extra costs—or the wrath of customers who have received poor service.

In an industry that is already stressed by growing volume demands, fewer drivers, and aging infrastructure, the HOS rules will further reduce capacity.

Sending Out An HOS SOS

To make the best of the new rules, shippers can follow these three guidelines:

  1. Scheduling and workflow management. The new regulations will lengthen delivery times. Left unchecked, this can increase costs, disrupt complex supply chains, and introduce cascading consequences throughout a company's extended network.
    One way organizations can counter these changes is by adjusting their planning. A common practice among trucking companies is to schedule driver hours for early morning to allow more drive time, and to put trucks out with less traffic. The new rules will require this approach to be managed even more closely. Small mistakes from scheduling or unexpected events will have greater consequences. Ensure that your carrier partners are fully engaged throughout your system, and are prepared to handle contingencies.
  2. Driver management. It's easy to forget that multi-million-dollar supply chains rely on the work of drivers operating with relative independence on modest salaries. An industry that is already suffering from a significant shortage of drivers must now adapt to tighter regulations, increasing the need for good drivers.
    Drivers need to understand increasingly complex regulations and be more attentive to compliance. Companies should focus on their recruiting, training, and management practices.
  3. Partnership. Collaboration has always been an important part of delivering a supply chain that creates an operational advantage and gives shippers greater control over their costs. Today, it is essential. Ensure that your trucking company provides the technology, transparency, and reporting that enables you to continually improve the efficiency of your business. Just as importantly, provide them the data to allow for greater gains in productivity and management.