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.
15 Oct 2018
US trucking has entered a new era, in which a ‘new normal’ has been established. Even so, for shippers, there are some encouraging sector developments concerning driver recruitment and overall truck capacity.
Trucks travel on a road in New Jersey, United States.
27 Sep 2018
Owner-operators want regulators to tackle detention time by shippers in addition to hours-of-service flexibility.
Central Oregon Truck
07 Sep 2018
With many new technologies depending on gathering mobile data, getting drivers to buy into innovation is the key to success. And Central Oregon Truck Company offers an effective system that other trucking companies would be prudent to study.
A truck travels on a road in Mexico.
28 Aug 2018
The Confederation of Industrial Chambers, which represents more than 120 chambers around Mexico, said the government should hold off enforcing the hours-of-service rules, and it cited several reasons for its request.
A truck travels on a US road.
23 Aug 2018
Few debate the enhanced safety on US roads stemming from the electronic logging device (ELD). But what about circumstances the truck driver cannot control, such as an accident that suddenly closes a major highway? Or when equipment breaks down? Proposed reforms address these and more.
Trucks travel on a US highway.
13 Aug 2018
The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate did not cause a loss of drivers, but a loss of driving hours. Further, changes shippers made that were propelled by the ELD are likely to be lasting, even if exemption amendments for selected trucking segments are passed.

Commentary

What will the US trucking capacity situation be in five years? Will it be tighter than today, looser, or about the same? A show of hands to those questions at a panel — which I moderated at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professional’s 2018 Edge Conference — revealed most expect further tightness come 2023. Fundamentally, yours truly does not fully agree. 

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