Author: Justin Schmid
Content Marketing Specialist
- U.S. Federal regulations govern the working hours of commercial vehicle drivers to prevent fatigue-related accidents.
- Hours of Service (HOS) regulations require drivers to log their hours.
- There are exceptions to the rules, which can increase the chances of HOS violations.
- Electronic Logging Devices help drivers keep accurate logs.
FAQs: What Does Hours of Service Mean for Motor Carriers?
Hours of Service regulations, also called HOS, are U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules. They govern the working hours of commercial motor vehicle drivers. Their intent is to keep drivers from working while overly fatigued and make our roads safer.
In practice, HOS regulations can be tricky. The rules require drivers to keep a log book. Truckers started keeping logs in 1938 using paper. Back then, it was easy to make mistakes or flat-out falsify logs. Truckers also needed to know the complex rules HOS. In more recent years, electronic logs simplify record keeping and cut down on mistakes and manipulation.
Understanding the HOS Requirements
Even with advanced technology, keeping accurate logs is still challenging. Drivers focus most of their attention on getting goods to their destination as efficiently as possible.
And let’s also be honest: Government regulations aren’t always easy to understand. Even the best-intentioned truckers can struggle to figure out whether they’ve worked only the specified number of hours.
A long list of exceptions and definitions adds to the confusion. “Property carrying vehicles” have rules different from those carrying passengers. And some regulations allow extra time for non-driving duties like loading, fueling, and vehicle inspections. It can get perplexing in a hurry.
Defining the work day for drivers is straightforward, though. There’s on-duty time, off-duty time, driving time, and sleeper berth time. There’s a difference between on-duty and driving time, with the former covering tasks other than driving. On-duty time includes unloading, inspecting, and waiting to be dispatched, for example.
Who Falls Under the Hours of Service Regulations?
The rules apply to truck drivers and bus drivers for schools, cities, or transit companies. There are also other factors – vehicle weight, number of people being transported, and whether the vehicle is transporting a certain amount of hazardous materials, to name a few.
And what about exceptions?
Everything from weather to operating range to where a driver is based can make a difference. Here’s one example: “Drivers for theatrical or television motion picture productions are exempt if the driver operates within a 100 air-mile radius of the location where the driver reports to and is released from work. These drivers may take an 8-hour break, and are allowed 15 hours on duty.”
You can visit the FMCSA for a comprehensive list of exceptions.
Why Would Anyone Want to Falsify their Hours?
Driving fatigued is stressful, especially for someone driving a tractor-trailer. So why break the rules?
Long-haul drivers are paid by the mile rather than the hour. Since they don’t get overtime, every minute counts. Truckers also don’t get paid for time they spend waiting at warehouses. These factors can push drivers to skirt the regulations.
What About Enforcement?
Back in the old days of notebooks and carbon copies, drivers could bend the rules easily. Electronic Logging Devices – and their earlier incarnation, Automatic On-Board Recording Devices – make it harder to falsify logs or make mistakes. ELDs even reduce the amount of driver input. They automatically track driving time and location, but allow for drivers to sign off on the data.
DOT officers typically enforce the Hours of Service regulations. Often, they randomly select truckers for inspections at weigh stations. They tend to inspect organizations with lower safety ratings more often.
Fines range as high as $1,000 a day with other violations topping $11,000. Violations can even lead to prosecution. In 1999, two trucking company officials received federal prison sentences for HOS violations after four people died during a crash with one of their drivers.
Officers can also put drivers out of service. This can prevent goods from reaching customers, which can hurt transit companies’ revenues and reputation. Violations can also lower a motor carrier’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores. These scores reflect investigation results, number of vehicles and miles traveled, number and severity of crashes, and other factors. Lower CSA scores can result in higher insurance costs, more compliance checks, and a bad reputation among potential clients.
The Best Way to Keep Driver Logs
Avoiding HOS violations is easier than ever. With telematics and Electronic Logging Devices, drivers can quickly and precisely track their hours. ELDs synch with a truck’s engine to record its movements. In addition, ELDs provide engine hours data that provides more accurate maintenance information.
Pairing GPS tracking with an ELD solution also makes sense. Together, they address accountability, compliance, and safety. Also, GPS tracking is required to meet Department of Transportation guidelines for ELD compliance.
ELD offers another helpful function: It can track miles driven in states and jurisdictions. That can also help with other complicated issues such as International Fuel Tax Agreement reporting.