At the heart of the trucking industry is a conflict familiar to all businesses – the balance between profit and quality of life. On the one hand, administrators need to make sure loads are delivered on time and vehicles are used efficiently. On the other hand, the demands of long-haul driving are well-documented – months spent away from home, bouts of loneliness and poor physical health stemming from an unhealthy diet. One group’s interests cannot outweigh the others in the push to improve a business.
In the middle of this struggle are Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. HOS rules were originally established to promote road safety and have gone through numerous revisions since their instatement. 2013 saw a major revision that suspended the requirement that drivers include two periods between 1 A.M. and 5 A.M. during a restart cycle. This suspension inspired debate throughout the industry – some believe this rule change allows drivers more flexibility while other maintain that it promotes unsafe driving practices. It’s important to remember that this only one debate surrounding HOS – a projected FMCSA rule will require all interstate carriers to install electronic logging devices (ELD) in their vehicles. HOS rules and laws are continually evaluated to ensure they reflect both business and driver interests.
As a matter of fact, HOS rules have a stronger connection to driver health and quality of life than may be immediately apparent. The most updated HOS rules are listed below.
- 11-Hour Driving Limit: May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 hours off duty
- 14-Hour Limit: May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours of duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
- Rest Breaks: May drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since end of driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes.
- 60/70-Hour Limit: May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
- Sleeper Berth Provision: Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.
In all, these rules help drivers balance work with rest. The 11-hour driving limit and 14-hour limit help prevent driver exhaustion. The rest break and sleeper berth provisions break up a driver’s workday. These rules give drivers time to talk with family, pursue leisure activities, eat, and sleep. Driving will always been a solitary, demanding profession. HOS rules help make life on the road a little better.
Businesses can help their drivers achieve a better quality of life by implementing software that supports HOS compliance. An elevated quality of life can directly lead to a more satisfied workforce. In an industry faced with high driver turnover, this is a decision every business should consider making. If nothing else, the FMCSA takes HOS seriously – something trucking companies should note and plan for accordingly.