Adapting to Hours of Service Rules

On Jan. 4, 2004, the Hours of Service (HOS) rules, adopted in 1939, are changing. The idea behind the changes is to permit commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers more time and opportunities for quality rest and restorative sleep, and to reduce the number of crashes caused by drowsy, tired, or fatigued CMV drivers. Dave Bouchard, vice president of Dedicated Contract Carriage solutions, Ryder System Inc., offers the following 10 tips on dealing with the new rules.

1. Educate all your carriers, managers, and customers about the new HOS rules. Be sure they understand the rules and comply with all regulatory requirements. Training sessions may be invaluable in preparing your operations for a smooth transition to full compliance.

2. Never permit nor require any carrier to violate Hours of Service regulations. Make sure your carrier’s drivers understand they are never to accept a dispatch if they are not aware of remaining hours they have available to drive, or if they know that the dispatch will exceed the hours they have available to drive.

3. Make sure trained managers audit logs. It is essential that you and your carriers have the proper organizational systems in place for timely auditing and filing of HOS records. If driver log violations are discovered, then corrective action should follow with any employee who has contributed to the violations. This could be the driver, dispatcher, or other management person.

4. Take the necessary steps to retool hardware and software for on-board computers. You or your carriers may need to manually audit the on-board computer logs until systems are updated.

5. Make quality of life a top priority with drivers. Make sure your carrier’s drivers take the time to eat proper meals. They should also continue to take rest breaks and naps that will help reduce fatigue and increase attentiveness.

6. Carefully think through the 34-hour restart provision. The 34-hour restart provision allows drivers to operate far in excess of current limits. But it could also result in an increase in driver fatigue and fatigue-related collisions and injuries, and lead to quality-of-life issues for drivers who have less time off and less time to spend with their families.

7. Be sure safety remains the first concern of all carriers, dispatchers, and customers. The 14-hour rule establishes a “hard clock” that cannot be extended by rest breaks. Therefore, drivers may be more likely to skip meals and attempt to drive even though they are fatigued.

8. Shippers and receivers need to be partners in finding solutions to loading and unloading inefficiencies. The 14-hour rule will create problems for operations that encounter unanticipated and uncontrolled delays. So conversations among all transportation parties need to happen today, not on Jan. 5, when loads fail to arrive on time.

9. Make sure you have carefully reviewed customer operations. Analyze your customers’ fleet size and supply chains in light of the new rules. You may be able to identify ways in which the new rules can bring efficiencies to their business by reducing costs, yet maintaining the same level of service.

10. Be especially cognizant of just-in-time operations involving networks of milk run/line haul routes and excessive time waiting at the docks for goods. A redesign may be required to ensure your customers’ supply chains keep moving in the most efficient manner.

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