Working with regulations to get the most from, and for, your drivers

 Understanding hours-of-service and ELD regulations and their exemptions can help fleets better manage driver's time. ( Photo: Truckstockimages.com )

Understanding hours-of-service and ELD regulations and their exemptions can help fleets better manage driver's time. (Photo: Truckstockimages.com)

Well-known transportation safety expert John Seidl has been dispensing industry knowledge for years, first as a safety compliance officer for the Wisconsin State Patrol Motor Carrier Inspector, and now as the vice president of risk services for Reliance Partners. So, when Seidl offers up tips on how to make regulations such as hours-of-service (HOS) and the electronic logging device (ELD) rules work for fleets, they listen.

Hundreds of attendees joined Seidl on Thursday afternoon for a webinar entitled “Work Smart. Make Money: Maximize Profits & Increase Carrier Efficiencies,” presented by Arrive Logistics along with Reliance Partners and FreightWaves.

Seidl focused the presentation on ways to reduce costs and make some of the rules work better, such as utilizing the 8/2 split sleeper rule, personal conveyance and yard moves more effectively. His main points, though, centered on staying on top of what FMCSA is doing by subscribing to the Federal Register’s FMCSA updates page. Seidl also advised working to control CSA scores and regularly monitoring the FMCSA portal for your fleet to stay abreast of any potential violations or other issues. The portal, he said, can sometimes provide you information on violations before you would otherwise become aware.

Another big tip was to utilize in-cab cameras. Now working for an insurance provider, Seidl sees the benefits cameras have on insurance premiums as they can help exonerate a driver when an incident occurs. Cameras, though, can also help support a driver’s use of personal conveyance and yard moves should an enforcement officer not believe they were used correctly.

Seidl did note that FMCSA seems to be working to alleviate some pain points from the recent ELD rule, which is why he recommended following the agency’s Federal Register filings.

“Now that ELDs are here and everyone is feeling the capacity crunch, now the industry is looking for [HOS] flexibility,” he said. “The federal government, whether it’s Congress or FMCSA, understands there is a flexibility problem.”

From that point, Seidl went on to explain the HOS and ELD rules and suggested fleets and drivers “change their level of knowledge” and review HOS rules. Within the current rules, Seidl pointed out, is flexibility if you know how to use them to your benefit.

Take yard moves, for instance. Under HOS rules, a driver can’t drive for more than 8 hours without a 30-minute break. So, if a driver starts his day at 6 a.m. and arrives at a drop off or pickup location at 2 p.m. without taking a break, he technically could not move the truck to the loading door until he takes a 30-minute break. But, if the location qualifies as a “yard,” meaning it is now open to the general public, includes restrictive gates or prohibitive signs or other regulations based on size, weight or class of registration, then a driver could use the “yard move” designation on the ELD to position the truck for loading or unloading.

Driving from one facility location to another to pick up a trailer, though, is not considered a yard move if you must travel on a “highway,” defined as a road, street or way open to public travel whether it is on public or private property.

Seidl also said be sure drivers record time spent working on their truck as on-duty, not-driving time. Failure to do that simply keeps the 11-hour clock ticking. Also, utilize ELD exemptions where allowed, including the 100 air-mile short haul exemption for CDL holders (which is different than the 150 air-mile exemptions for non-CDL vehicles and agricultural haulers). That exemption applies when:

  1. 100 air miles from work reporting location
  2. The driver leaves and returns to original work reporting location in 12 hours.
  3. 10 consecutive hours off duty separating each 12 hours on duty
  4. does not exceed 11 hours maximum driving time following 10 consecutive hours off duty
  5. The motor carrier maintains time records for 6 months showing:

A driver, though, is not exempt from the 11-hour, 14-hour, and 60-/70-hour workweek rules or the 8-day limit rule.

Another big opportunity to maximize time that is often lost is the “personal conveyance” exemption. FMCSA recently issued guidance to clarify personal conveyance. The guidance states:

“A driver may record time operating a CMV for personal conveyance (i.e., for personal use or reasons) as off-duty only when the driver is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work by the motor carrier. The CMV may be used for personal conveyance even if it is laden, since the load is not being transported for the commercial benefit of the carrier at that time.”

Seidl said that how personal conveyance is utilized is ultimately up to the carrier, but the new interpretation from FMCSA opens some doors to use it for better time management. For instance, under the guidance, a driver may drive a “reasonable and safe” distance to find a safe place to park for the night. What is that distance? FMCSA didn’t specify, but it can’t be to put the truck in a better “operational readiness” position for the next day’s work.

Seidl recommended fleets institute a personal conveyance policy, say 50 miles, and work with drivers when exceptions are needed. A bit of advice, though, is if the driver goes 40 miles to the next truck stop and there are no available spaces, have that driver take pictures of the parking lot to prove that. Seidl said this provides some level of proof to enforcement that the driver tried to stop at a “reasonable” location and couldn’t and that is why they are continuing to drive. Because the law doesn’t specify a time or distance, each jurisdiction may have its own interpretation of what is reasonable.

Personal conveyance can be used for:

  1. Time spent traveling from a driver’s en route lodging (such as a motel or truck stop) to restaurants and entertainment facilities.
  2. Commuting between the driver’s terminal and his or her residence, between trailer-drop lots and the driver’s residence, and between work sites and his or her residence.
  3. Time spent traveling to a nearby, reasonable, safe location to obtain required rest after loading or unloading.
  4. Move a CMV at the request of a safety official during the driver’s off-duty time

“Utilize yard moves and personal conveyance to your advantage,” Seidl said.

Another lost opportunity is the 8/2 split sleeper rule that has been on the books for years, Seidl said. “Do you have to take 10 hours off? No,” he said.

The rule itself can be confusing, Seidl said, and most drivers and fleets don’t fully understand it. As with yard moves and personal conveyance, he advised attendees to not utilize these tips unless they fully understand them. Even a simple misunderstanding can lead to an unnecessary CSA violation.

With the 8/2 split, Seidl said a driver could drive for 6 hours and then take a 2-hour off-duty break and then drive for another 5 hours. At that point, an 8-hour off-duty period would commence and, when combined with the 2-hour off-duty break, provide the 10 hours of equivalent off-duty time as required by FMCSA.

According to a Q&A on J.J. Keller’s website, the split sleeper berth is explained as:

“Drivers may split their required off-duty time by using a sleeper-berth. Specifically, drivers of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles may accumulate the equivalent of 10 consecutive hours off duty by taking two periods of rest, provided that:

  • One of the periods is at least 8 consecutive hours in a sleeper berth;
  • The remaining 2 hours (taken either before or after the 8-hour period) is spent either off duty, in a sleeper berth, or any combination of the two;
  • Driving time in the period immediately before and after each rest period, when added together, does not exceed 11 hours; and
  • Compliance with the 14-hour rule is calculated from the end of the first of the two qualifying rest periods.”

FMCSA is now looking to run a pilot study of additional split sleeper options.

Seidl also recommended logging adverse driving conditions when they occur, which can extend a day up to 2 hours. He also touched on using the rental exemption to avoid using an ELD for up to 8 days when using rental vehicles.

To reduce costs, look to control CSA scores, which have a direct impact on insurance premiums, and utilize the rules to your advantage, which can reduce driver turnover and lower overall payroll costs, he said.

“It’s hard to save money on payroll, but you know how you can save money on payroll? Add flexibility for the driver,” he said. “You might be able to pay them less per mile and get more work done.”