Q&A: Proposed Changes to Truck Drivers' Hours of Service

Q&A: Proposed Changes to Truck Drivers' Hours of Service

In this podcast, Senior Editor William B. Cassidy talks about the proposed changes to trucking's HOS, explains the 34-hour rule and discusses how these changes could affect the trucking industry.

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Q: Currently there is a proposal on the table for truck driver HOS to be changed. Why this movement for changes?

A: Well the main reason for the change is safely. The DOT wants to ensure that the drivers get adequate rest and aren’t driving excessively long hours.

Currently the rules allow drivers to drive 11 hours a day and work a maximum of 14 hours during a non driving pass, which includes loading and unloading trucks. They are looking at proposed changes to this rule, which would in fact tighten up the hours that drivers can spend behind the wheel.

Q: Can you explain what the 34-hour restart is?

A: Sure the 34-hour restart refers to the amt of time drivers need to spend off duty before they can start their week. Drivers are limited to driving either 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days, depending on what type of caliber they chose. So when your 60 or 70 hours are up, you have to spend 34 hours off duty before you can drive again. And that’s a shorter restart period than they used to have. It used to be before 2003, 48 hours.

It was shortened because there were so many problems with truck drivers who were physically stranded so far away from home for a period of two days or more before they could get back and drive back to their domicile. The 34 restart was supposed to help speed them getting back to where they belong. The new proposal is going to change that a bit by requiring that every two periods within that 34-hour period, between midnight and 6 a.m., if you go off duty say at noon, and 12 hours later it’s midnight, then you go through the first midnight to 6 a.m. period, you’re probably going to have to wait until Sunday before you can drive again because 34 hours would be 10 p.m. on the next night. You would only have had one midnight to 6am period. So you’re going to have to wait to get that second midnight to 6am before you can drive again so it really does lengthen it beyond 34 hours many drivers.

Q: How could these changes affect the industry?

A: Well they‘re really important, not just for truck drivers and trucking companies, but for shippers, for 3PL providers, for ocean carriers, for anyone involved in the movement of goods in the US or to or through the US, because at some point those goods are going to touch a truck. If the number of hours that drivers can spend on the road is shortened, either by cutting back the maximum driving time from 11 to 10 hours, which is one suggestion, or by tightening up the rules so that they have to take a certain amount of break time, that they have to finish their daily duties within 13 hours, which is the new proposal, or lengthening the restart period they have to go through before going to work again. What that means at the end of the day is that they are diving fewer miles. It’s like imposing slow steaming on the highways, in a way, for all our maritime friends.

It really could add up when it comes to the cost of over-the-road transportation. And this is going to be a big issue when this eventually comes into play for not just the trucking companies and the truck drivers but their customers and their customers’ customers. This could really lead logistics managers at major shippers to look at their networks and do more localized transportation, look at ways of making distribution routes shorter, say 300 to 400 miles, other than 500 or 600, or to use more intermodal, to put more truckload freight onto intermodal rail and use the shorter distance. They’re going to find it harder to find drivers to drive the 500-mile trips that they’re now doing under the current rules if these new rules take effect.