FMCSA HOS Rules And ELDs: Is A “Happily Ever After” Possible?

FMCSA HOS Rules And ELDs: Is A "Happily Ever After" Possible?

The FMCSA ELD mandate deadline is almost here, and it brings with it significant impacts on U.S. transportation industry operations.

We review a rough timeline of HOS rules and finish with how these rules may be impacted by ELDs and elogs.

Why Truckers Hate The 14-Hour Rule

For many years now, U.S. lawmakers have been trying to find a way to lower the number of road accidents involving trucks.

However, sometimes these laws result in unintended consequences, which seems to be the case for the 14-hour rule.

Reports from drivers cite that the HOS rule interrupts their rest breaks and that it prevents flexibility in their schedules.

The 14-hour period is consecutive, so that means all on-duty and off-duty time counts towards it.

Of the 14 hours, 11 of them are allowed to be spent driving.

Drivers can do non-driving work beyond the 14-hour limit.

Due to drivers’ inconsistent schedules, the 14-hour rule forces them to intricately plan out each and every detail of their trips with little margin for error.

Delayed pickups and deliveries aren’t accounted for in this rule, so it puts drivers at a disadvantage that is out of their control.

The rule obviously causes a number of problems due to the variance in a driver’s rate of speed as well.

For example, if a trucker drives too slowly, they will have to sleep before the 14 hours are up, and will then have to wait another 10 hours before being allowed to drive again.

The FMCSA Indefinitely Suspends the 2013 Restart Provisions

Earlier this year the FMCSA fully scrapped the 34-hour restart provisions that were made in 2013 for good, after they were deemed to be “negligible” on improving safety.

This means that the requirement for 2 off-duty periods between 1 AM to 5 AM will not be enforced, and neither will the once-per-week limit for using the restart.

The provisions were originally suspended in 2014 after the trucking industry managed to convince lawmakers that the new requirements were disrupting drivers’ schedules and rest breaks.

The provisions also caused trucks to have to drive on highways during morning rush-hour, heavily impacting traffic throughout the country.

However, this does not mean the entire 34-hour restart has been done away with.

Drivers still cannot drive after 60 or 70 hours on duty for 7 or 8 days.

Truckers may still restart their 7 or 8 day period after taking the necessary 34-hour off-duty break.

Split Sleeper Berth Pilot Program Announced

The FMCSA is looking for 200 drivers to participate in a study to research the feasibility and safety of splitting a truck driver’s sleeper berth period.

As of right now, the sleeper berth regulation has remained relatively unchanged, and simply states that “a driver who operates a property-carrying CMV equipped with a sleeper berth, must, before driving, accumulate:

  • At least 10 consecutive hours off-duty
  • At least 10 consecutive hours of sleeper-berth time
  • A combination of consecutive sleeper berth and off-duty time amounting to at least 10 hours
  • The equivalent of at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty”

The FMCSA currently allows drivers 3 different sleeper berth options: a 10-hour period, a split of 9 and 1 hour, and a split of 8 and 2 hours.

The potential new sleeper berth rule from the FMCSA will allow drivers to use any split, as long as the split:

  • Amounts to 10 total hours
  • Neither period of the split is less than 3 hours

How ELDs Might Solve Truck Drivers’ Problems With The HOS Rules

Many believe that ELDs will provide the substantial data needed to back drivers’ arguments for changing the HOS rules.

More importantly, this data provided by the ELDs is automatically generated, by the thousands of vehicles in service that are required to use them.

The trucking industry will no longer have to wait 2 years for the FMCSA to conduct a study due to the automated nature of ELDs.

Ideally, this should mean that we’ll see changes in federal regulations occur at a faster rate than in the past.

ELDs also help drivers avoid HOS violations due to their automated alerts that notify both truckers and fleet managers/dispatchers when a driver is approaching an HOS violation threshold.

ELDs and elogs will provide better insight than ever before into drivers’ daily HOS so that the trucking industry doesn’t have to rely on anecdotal evidence (however substantial).

So hopefully U.S. lawmakers will see the light provided by cold hard facts from the ELD data.

So, with the ELD mandate compliance deadline just over a month away, now is the time to stop protesting against ELDs, and refocus on changing the problematic HOS rules.

It’s also important to realize how ELDs are able to help the trucking industry when it comes to implementing industry-wide changes at the federal level.



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