Trucking Hours of Service

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

Norfolk Southern.
29 Jan 2019
Ripples from last year’s ELD mandate are still reverberating down rail tracks.
Infographic: Where the US truck drivers are
28 Jan 2019
Since 2012, small trucking companies (100 trucks or fewer) have been hiring truck drivers twice as fast as large carriers (500+ trucks).
A truck being loaded.
25 Jan 2019
Sharing information on shipments digitally will help companies make more efficient use of existing capacity.
A truck travels on a US road.
24 Jan 2019
Many variables have affected capacity, but heightened economic activity has been the main factor squeezing US capacity since 2017.
A truck travels in the United States.
21 Jan 2019
The 2019 regulatory schedule isn’t clear, but what is clear is that there will be many more hours of debate over truck driver hours of service.
A truck travels in Canada.
17 Dec 2018
US shippers took a similar hit when the US electronic logging device (ELD) mandate disrupted truck capacity in inter-city lanes last December.

Commentary

The electronic logging device means big data analysis is possible across the trucking/logistics sphere — and that opens up a world of opportunities for improved efficiency, fleet optimization, and more.

More Commentary