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Trucking Hours of Service

The hours a truck driver may spend behind the wheel per day or work per week are a basic building block of any supply chain. Shortening those hours can not only cut into a truck driver’s earnings but make delivering goods on-time while maintaining lean inventories even more difficult for motor carriers and costly for shippers.

The latest round of revisions to hours of service or HOS rules first introduced in the 1930s came in 2013. Portions of that rule redefining how drivers can use a 34-hour weekly restart were challenged by trucking organizations and suspended by Congress in 2015, pending a report on their impact by the Department of Transportation.

In 2015, the Federal Administration issued a final rule requiring truck drivers to log their on- and off-duty hours electronically by Dec. 18, 2017.  The rule, which fulfills a congressional mandate, was challenged by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, but upheld by a US Court of Appeals in October 2016.

Eletronic logging device (ELD)

Electronic logging is a major operational and cultural change for truck drivers, who have used paper logs to record their “duty status” since the 1930s. The transition to electronic logging devices or ELDs, which is expected to be complete by 2019, will pose challenges for shippers as well as drivers and trucking and logistics companies.

More precise logging -- and fewer opportunities to falsify logs and get away with it -- will mean tighter delivery schedules for shippers and less inherent flexibility in supply chains. Trucking operators and their customers will be pressed to improve route planning and reduce detention time at shipper customers and consignees.

As truck drivers feel the the clock eating into miles, motor carriers will be pressured to increase driver pay to compensate and to keep drivers. Drivers may become even harder to hire and keep on the payroll. Shippers may have to adjust their supply chains and cooperate more closely with carriers or pay higher rates.

An expected hit to productivity and truck and driver utilization will tighten truck capacity available to shippers as carriers prepare to comply with the rule and more and more ELDs are deployed. An unknown number of drivers are expected to leave the industry and an unknown number of HOS violators eventually could be shut down.

In the long-term, ELDs and the data collected by them and tighter hours of service enforcement will make truckers more productive, supply chains more efficient, and highways safer. In the short-term, however, the ELD mandate could crimp truck capacity at a time when freight demand is expected to rise, pushing costs and rates higher.

Slideshow: Hours of Service, Years of Debate: 1935-2013

News & Analysis

Trucks travel on a US highway.
31 May 2018
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Thursday provided guidance on when drivers can use trucks for personal conveyance, among other guidance areas.
FFE Transportation.
30 May 2018
Shippers could face challenges finding trucks June 5 to 7 as an annual three-day roadside safety blitz tests electronic logging and hours-of-service compliance.
A freight train travels in Illinois, United States.
24 May 2018
The United States is early in trucking’s “new normal” era, but what is already clear is this: shippers will have to use all options — whether truckload, intermodal rail, less-than-truckload, or even package van — if they want to secure surface transportation capacity.
Trucks travel in Tennessee, United States.
24 May 2018
When talking about capacity, shippers too often focus on drivers, facilities, and assets. Time, however, is a key element in transportation capacity, and one that needs to be addressed if shippers hope to find freight space at reasonable prices and ship “more with less” in 2018.
Trucks at a carrot farm in California.
15 May 2018
The electronic logging device mandate’s impact has rippled across supply chains, and there is no better example of that than the US agriculture export market.
A truck travels on a US road.
15 May 2018
Technology came under the spotlight at the Transplace Shipper Symposium this week, as did the truck driver shortage (as expected). Other topics that may help shippers address their freight transportation problems yielded insights, as well.

Commentary

Although Uber Freight can certainly have a major impact on freight brokering, there are many factors that show the standards in the industry cannot be switched that easily.