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New Thoughts on Hours of Service


An unregulated fleet is a business’ worst nightmare.  The consequences can be serious – fatigued drivers, lost revenue, and, if Hollywood is to be believed, highly dangerous road conditions. The recent Mad Max film has enlivened the public’s imagination with its makeshift vehicles and disregard for traffic laws, in a world where all federal regulations are forgotten. There are many lessons fleet managers can learn from a film like this – for one, it’s important to know what’s happening on the road. With Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, the federal government gives businesses a window into their drivers’ safety behavior, but if a recent Department of Transportation (DOT) bill gets vetoed, those rules may change yet again.

The Obama administration is projected to veto a DOT funding bill that upholds the 2013 rule which suspends two mandated rest periods for drivers between 1AM and 5AM during their 34-hour restart cycle. This bill has already been passed by the House of Representatives. It must be passed by the Senate before it reaches the president, who will almost certainly veto it, based on a recommendation from the FMCSA.

This news arrives in conjunction with a study published by a federal advisory committee that concludes hours behind the wheel are more important for new drivers than performance-based training. The committee will advise the FMCSA that entry-level drivers should spend 30 hours behind the wheel in preparation for the job. At least 10 of these hours should be spent on the road, with 10 more on the range, and the remaining divided between the road and the range. Should the FMCSA accept the recommendation, this policy will be incorporated into future rulemaking and laws.

In all, the hours drivers spend behind the wheel are coming under closer and closer scrutiny. No matter what the FMCSA finally decides, fleet managers will need to monitor their drivers’ hours to ensure they stay safe on the road.  The FMCSA’s HOS rules work to prevent driver fatigue, preventing overwork and accidents. The last thing fleet managers need in the midst of all these changes is a mountain of paperwork. Electronic HOS portals allow drivers to quickly enter all data, reduce the risk of human error, and let fleet managers ensure their business stays compliant with federal regulations. The more fleet managers know, the better they can coach their drivers. Better coached drivers are successful byproducts of a world where regulations keep roads secure – a far cry from the world of Mad Max, where safety management has been left in the dust. 

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