U.S. regulators are hyper-focused on hours-of-service adjustments and the trucking industry’s compliance with the electronic logging devices designed to monitor them–as is the industry itself.
At tech supplier Omnitracs’ Outlook 2020 conference on February 17th in Las Vegas, ELDs and HOS rules took center stage. Industry officials talked extensively about how regulators are finalizing the proposal of driver HOS flexibility, as federal electronic logging device enforcement also progresses.
For truck drivers, motor carriers, and shippers, these new regulations may be the most important federal trucking changes in 2020.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released its intention to revise how much time drivers can spend on-duty hours (both driving and out-of-cab), as well as how they track their hours in their driver logs, in August 2018. The ELD mandate took full effect in December 2019–a regulation calling for truckers to record their HOS with ELDs instead of annual paper logbooks.
Joe DeLorenzo, acting associate administrator for enforcement at the FMCSA, said at the conference’s panel discussion that current ELD enforcement data shows law enforcement is learning to more regularly cooperate with the data transfer process of the new technology.
DeLorenzo said there has been an “interesting curve” in driver log violations, as well as in driver violations for exceeding HOS limits.
“We had a large dip in violations for falsification,” he explained. “But as officers got comfortable with it, that level of violations per inspection for false records is higher than it’s ever been before, which means now law enforcement has figured out what the tricks are, and how easy it is to find the falsifications.”
Back when the ELD mandate was first set in 2017, the FMCSA had “numerous requests from Congress and the public for [the] FMCSA to consider revising certain HOS provisions,” the federal truck safety agency said in its rulemaking notice.
The Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association in particular asked the agency to make significant changes to HOS rules in order to allow drivers to rest for up to three consecutive hours once per 14-hour shift. OOIDA also wanted the FMCSA to loosen the 30-minute rest break requirement after eight driving hours.
The FMCSA released its guidance in May of 2018 depicting how drivers should use the personal conveyance provision of the HOS rules, as well as how certain exemptions work in the era of the ELD mandate. Still, regulators thought they should address the ELD trucking aftershock further.
According to DeLorenzo, the overall learning curve is likely to continue throughout 2020.
“We need this next six or 12 months to really solidify that learning, get everybody used to it, and the more we can get data transfer done, that’s better for everybody,” he said.
Kerri Wirachowsky, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance roadside inspection program director, said to make ELD inspections work easily, driver knowledge is most important.
“Ensure your drivers are trained on how to use the device,” she asserted.
FMCSA is still reviewing public comments regarding its HOS regulation flexibility proposal. When the comment period on the rulemaking notice was extended, thousands of comments flooded the agency. The four HOS areas being considered for changes include:
-Expanding the current short-haul exemption from 12 to 14 hours-on duty
-Extending the 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when adverse driving conditions are present
-Revising the mandatory 30-minute break for drivers after eight hours of driving
-Reinstating the option to split 10-hour off-duty breaks for drivers operating trucks with sleeper-berths
DeLorenzo said as HOS changes are complex, it will continue to take time. The changes also continue to receive strong backlash from those arguing that relaxing break times will bring more fatigued drivers, and thus, more accidents.
For FMCSA, the main concern seems to be changing trucking environments with higher–and faster–demands.
“An awful lot has changed in the industry since 2003,” DeLorenzo said. “Just-in-time delivery wasn’t a thing. Amazon wasn’t a thing. Traffic certainly was not what it is now. Infrastructure was not what it is now.”