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Driver issuesNewsRegulation

Driver productivity and freight capacity in hours of service spotlight

Federal regulators highlighted an estimated $275 million saved by the trucking industry as a result of productivity gains from just one of the one of the proposed changes to hours-of-service HOS regulations, but the industry could see even bigger productivity and capacity gains if all the revisions are enacted, according to trucking experts.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) wants to relax the 30-minute break rule by requiring a break after eight hours of actual driving time – instead of eight hours of merely being on-duty – and allowing the requirement to be satisfied by an on-duty break from driving, rather than requiring an off-duty break. Multiplying a carrier’s per-hour profit by the hours saved by drivers, the FMCSA arrives at the estimated $275 million annual cost savings – or $2.3 billion annualized over 10 years.

But the agency is also considering allowing drivers to pause their 14-hour driving window with one off-duty break of between 30 minutes and three hours, a revision meant to account for delays caused by shippers and receivers – a change requested by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

“I was surprised to see this in the rulemaking, but I think it will give carriers a lot more flexibility, particularly if their driver gets stuck at a shipper/consignee location waiting to load or unload,” Tim Wiseman, managing partner at the law firm Scopelitis, told FreightWaves.

Wiseman also was not expecting regulators to expand the definition of what constitutes a “short haul” move from 100 to 150 miles, and thus be exempted from both electronic logging device (ELD) requirements and the 30-minute rest-break requirements. “That will benefit companies that have routes that are more than 100 miles from the normal work-reporting location of the driver,” Wiseman said.

FMCSA is also allowing drivers who take advantage of the split-sleeper-berth exception (in which drivers can split their required 10-hour off-duty period between a two-hour period and eight hours in the sleeper berth) into two periods of seven hours and three hours (either off-duty or sleeper berth), and counting neither period against the driver’s 14-hour driving window.

Wiseman estimated that the way the current revisions are drafted, overall driver productivity will increase by at least 5 to 6 percent. “When they changed the [14-hour on-duty clock] from 15 hours years ago, studies found that it decreased productivity of long-haul truck drivers by roughly that amount, so they’re kind of putting that productivity back, is the way I interpret the changes.”

Ibrahiim Bayaan, FreightWaves’ Chief Economist & Market Expert, agrees that the rule changes will better allow drivers to customize their days, meet deadlines and optimize their rest time so that they’re taking breaks when then need them, not when they have to.

Portion of 11-hour driving clock that is actual driving time – Aug. 15 = 6.57 hrs.
Source: SONAR

“We have data showing the proportion of the 11-hour clock that drivers aren’t using for driving – they’re maybe using seven hours when times are good, but less when the market is softer,” Bayaan said (see FreightWaves’ SONAR chart, above). “So to the extent these rules allow greater flexibility, carriers should be able to eliminate more of the wasted time.”

Bayaan pointed out that while the ELD mandate had the effect of tightening freight capacity due in part to restrictions in HOS regulations, relaxing the rules – whenever they were to go into effect, which might not be until 2021 – could have the opposite effect, at least in the short-term.

“You can think of optimizing HOS as being another way of increasing capacity in the industry. It does have that kind of an effect,” he said. “Right now the industry is in a period of adjustment – when you look at recent trucking bankruptcies, it’s the industry adjusting to the idea that there’s too much capacity out there. But I don’t look at these regulatory changes as an attempt to address a short-term problem. What the proposed changes will do if they are enacted is to make the trucking industry more efficient.”

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John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.

4 Comments

  1. Throw in the magic word `study` and should help to pass. The same wording was used for ELD implementation. Study says 26 lives will be saved while fatalities are actually up significantly.

    1. RJ,
      Where are you seeing this study? I have been waiting to see what the numbers look like compared to miles driven. Fatality numbers are up in 2017 (pre-ELD) as well. But flat when you look at the miles. It is expected that 2018 will have a big increase in miles so “up significantly” is yet to be determined.

  2. Why should truck drivers continuously have to work for free by using a 30 minute up to a3 hour off duty provision nowhere else in any other industry would an employee work for free, I’ve been a professional truck driver for 25 years and I am very disappointed in the new proposals that are coming out, if the FMCSA wants to implement new regulations my suggestions are to eliminate the 30 minute break which stresses out every truck driver because it’s useless and furthermore a non truck driver should not be making any rules we want less hours and more money it’s very unsafe to put drivers out for more hours, mandating trucking companies to set all big tracks at the highest posted speed limit the state’s drivers are running in also for local drivers I propose only being able to drive 10 hours with a 14 hour reset for over the road drivers give them 80 hours to work with and let them determine what works for them during that allowable time frame per week and you will have a lot more productive drivers, thanks for listening God bless!😁😉

  3. Are you an over the road driver? Probably not, why would you want to cut to 10 hours a day? That leaves idle trucks in the truck stops for 14 hours a day, we would definitely need more parking. We need more driving hours for more flexibility. Less restrictions, and easy to understand. Like 14 hours on duty in any 24 hour period. PERIOD. No mandatory breaks, no resets. Just get in a rythm and roll with it. As for the speed thing, absolutely! All trucks should be able to achieve the posted limit.

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