How Small Delays Can Lengthen Drivers' Days

On the surface, the new hours of service rules that took effect July 1 don’t seem that different, but appearances can be misleading.

The daily driving limit is still 11 hours, the daily on-duty limit 14 hours and the weekly limit 60 or 70 hours, depending on how many days are included in the work week.

But seemingly small changes — a mandatory 30-minute break, new weekly restart requirements — can add up to lots of lost time, especially when congestion, loading or unloading delays, highway construction and other unpredictable events are thrown into the mix. And time, along with miles, is money.

Mark Montague, industry rate analyst at spot market load-matching service DAT, put a lot of thought into how the new rules could complicate drivers’ schedules and lives. A former dispatcher, Montague knows how a broken-down car, a construction-related detour, or just a busy roadway can complicate the best-planned routes. The longer the trip, the more opportunity for trouble.

In a recent post on DAT's Freight Talk blog, Montague came up with a scenario to show how the new rules could turn a two-day trip from Chicago to Houston into a three-day trip.

I won't go over his entire scenario here, but I'll tell you it doesn't take much to add hours to the driver's clock. Heavy commuter traffic, single lane traffic through a construction zone and delays caused by accidents, and Houston, we have a problem.

There’s been debate over whether the new HOS rules will make highways safer. However, there’s no question the rules will make a tough job harder.

It's going to take more than a truckload of planning, cooperation and skill for drivers, carriers and shippers to compensate for lost flexibility and productivity.

Contact William B. Cassidy at wcassidy@joc.com and follow him at twitter.com/wbcassidy_joc.

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