One of the most widely discussed trucking topics of the last few years has been the changes in the hours-of-service rules. As the effective date of Jan. 4, 2004, drew nearer, trucking publications went into hyper-drive with at least one or two articles every week or month detailing the new rules and what they spelled for the transportation industry.
A quick review of those articles indicates the uncertainty that was present just a few months ago. There were many predictions by the trucking press; some optimistic, just as many the opposite. No one was really sure of what the new HOS regulations held in store for trucking.
Of course, there was concern within the expediting industry as well. In a previous Expediters Online article, the upcoming changes elicited uncertainty about just what the regulations would mean for the industry. The predictions of how those regulations would impact expediting ranged from little change to gloom and doom.
So far, neither has been the case.
We've got the months of the new HOS rules behind us now, and according to our expediting respondents, the reactions are mixed.
The following remarks are a random sampling of owner-operators, expedited carriers and fleet owners:
Ben and Melanie Easters
Panther II Transportation
Tractor-trailer owner-operators – team
"As a team, we're doing fine. The feedback I've been getting from other drivers is that now that they've been running by these new rules for a while and giving it a try out, they're doing pretty well.
"Even the single drivers tell me that once they got adjusted to it, they don't have too many problems. You can still take your two hour break in the middle of a run and stretch it out a little bit."
Matt and Katy Foscue
FedEx Custom Critical White Glove Contractors
Straight truck – team
Matt begins, "Driving strictly according to the rules, I'll be driving more fatigued than I was under the old rules."
"HOS gives us less flexibility; we're less able to jockey things around in regard to pickups and deliveries. It's limiting.
"If you get tired and want to take a nap, that's lost time. We've always run 5 hours on and 5 hours off. Before, if I wanted to awaken Katy early because I was tired, she could get up after 4 hours in the bunk.
"Now, she has to have 5 hours in the bunk, so if you're under a tight time schedule, you don't have the option to get the other driver up.
"Once you hit your limit, you can't go any farther. I don't know how it affects single drivers, but the customers have to respect their time limitations.
"I don't like it. We like to juggle things so that I can drive into the pickup and the delivery. The new rules have made that a problem."
"Under some scenarios, when you pull into your home, you might have to spend 10 hours in the bunk. No one's going to do that, so the new rules mean that everybody's going to cheat. No one's going to sleep in their driveway.”
Katy says, "The bottom line is that the new regs do absolutely nothing to increase safety. We've noticed that the exact opposite is true for team operations; it forces the rested driver to stay in the bunk longer. The driver behind the wheel has to remain at the wheel longer."
Landstar Express America Contractor
Cargo van (Sprinter) – single driver
"I'm not having any problems with the new rules, because I'm not using up all the hours. Unless I'm running hazmat, I don't have to log, and with Landstar agents, they're very good about watching the hours on the loads.
"Even on the non-hazmat long loads, there's always enough time figured in to give me breaks when I need them. I've never had any transferred loads with Landstar; I've always run straight through.
"Overall, there's been no changes for me with the new regulations."
Terry and Renee O'Connell
FedEx Custom Critical
Cargo van – team
"The new HOS rules haven't affected us because of our vehicle size, whether running single or team. FedEx Custom Critical is maintaining the same policies they have in the past toward vans where a single driver can run 700 miles and a team can run 1,100 miles on non-hazardous loads."
"The complaints I've heard from other expedite drivers is based on a lack of understanding of what the new rules really are. There seems to be a lot of confusion about how a driver can get his driving time back through use of the sleeper berth time.
I think there's a lot of resistance to change, good or bad.
"I can think of various ways that the new rules will adversely affect expediters, but I don't really know how they have impacted over-the-road drivers."
Wanda and Roger Sanders
Panther II Transportation
Drivers for truck owners Larry and Sherrill Rader
Straight truck – team
"As a team, the new regulations haven't hurt us.
"Roger had to come off the truck recently due to an injury. I ran single for a few weeks and the new hours of service rules really hurt the single driver. I don't see how anyone can make any money in the truck by himself. I did not do well at all as a solo driver.
"I was splitting my time as much as I could, and anytime that I could log sleeper berth time, I did.
"I think what these new rules will create is more liars. I think the DOT has done themselves a big disservice, because this will not accomplish greater safety.
"In talking to the drivers out there on the road, they tell me that it will make more of them into logbook cheaters and liars."
DJ Trucking - expedited fleet owner
"We run primarily teams, and the new hours of service changes haven't really impacted our team operations. Initially, our single drivers did a lot of complaining, but no one is saying anything now and they seem to be getting along all right."
"No one really understood these changes at first, and it looked like it was going to be worse than it turned out. It appeared that the 14-hour clock was unstoppable, but we all discovered that this was not the case, because of the sleeper berth time."
"Our single drivers have learned how to use the rules to benefit themselves - they don't require a lot of babysitting."
Expedited fleet owner
"At Freedom Express, the new HOS regulations have not really been an issue because we run virtually all team operations in our trucks."
Director of human resources, recruiting and business development
"We haven't felt too much of an impact because of the new HOS. The PBOs who I have talked to haven't noticed much of a change.
"We have had to make our shippers aware of these new rules and that those shippers have to get our trucks loaded and that's probably the main impact of the new HOS regs.
"Our dispatchers have to be real conscious of making sure people are getting their breaks. We've put our dispatchers through extensive training for the HOS.
"It's probably the solo drivers who will feel this the most."
Director of safety
"So far, I haven't had a lot of problems with it, just a lot of questions. The jury's still out as far as how much impact it will have on us. I haven't seen it impact us at all from the standpoint of costing us any business.
"In the expediting business, we run some short-haul loads; the biggest challenge I have now is teaching drivers how to manage their sleeper berth times so they can maximize their hours."
FedEx Custom Critical
"We've done a whole lot of work prior to the implementation of the new rules – informing our contractors and their drivers of the importance of the new rules and remaining in compliance.
"That instruction has been very effective, and the new rules have had almost no impact on our operations.
"Change is always rough, but our contractors have handled it well. The biggest issue is confusion about the 14-hour rule, but other than that, we haven't really seen any problems."
Director of recruiting
Landstar Express America
"I haven't really heard much about the new HOS from our BCO's (independent contractors); they don't seem to be talking about it. Either we did a fabulous job of HOS training or our contractors caught on to the new rules very well. So far, been somewhat of a non-issue.
"I think there might be some questions about how it's being handled. I think the enforcement agencies are doing a great job on their end, and I think our owner-operators are doing a great job in adapting to the new regulations.
"Our single drivers are still running well, and our teams have questions here and there, but overall it's not as bad as everyone thought it would be.
"In the months preceding the HOS changes, we at Landstar were educating not only our business capacity owners (Landstar contractors), but we were also educating the shipping/receiving world about what was coming down."
Operations manager and recruiting
"Because Metro Express runs primarily an all-team operation, we've had very little to deal with in regards to the HOS. We do have some single drivers who run locally (around 10 percent of the freight), but even when they take an out-of-town load, it hasn't been an issue with us, at least so far."
Contractor support and development
Panther II Transportation
"It's definitely had an effect on availability because the drivers are more aware of their first move of the day and starting the 14-hour clock. Drivers are a little hesitant in taking a run that delivers in the morning."
Brown offers a scenario: "A driver picks up a load in the early afternoon going 250 miles with a next morning delivery. He arrives at the consignee at midnight and it delivers at 0700. After he makes the delivery, even if it took only 15 minutes, he has ‘broken’ his break and started his 14-hour clock.
"He can split the break and extend that clock, but not everyone is up to speed on that technique."
Tri-State Expedited Services Inc.
"I had really expected the first month after the new HOS implementation to be rough, but so far, it's been a non-issue."
"My main concern was with drivers being held up at the shippers and how we were going to react to that. I put notice out to the contractors and dispatch to let me know if we had any problems and I would keep track of that. Since then, I have had maybe two phone calls about the HOS. It's been very quiet, and it has gone very smoothly.
"After looking at the drivers' logs and roadside inspections, I've found that it's not really as bad as we expected.
"Split sleeper berth time has always been difficult to explain and we've always told the contractors that we could sit down and talk about it."
--by Jeff Jensen, editor of Expediters Online.com
Jeff Jensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org