On the Marc: 5 Over-The-Road Tips for Managing HOS Changes

In case you haven’t heard, the FMCSA’s Hours of Service rules have changed, effective today, July 1.  Like a lot of guys I’ve talked to about it, I had to get myself familiar with the changes and ultimately how it would impact my business and what it would take to stay compliant.

Summary of the HOS Changes

The biggest changes I see includes a mandatory 30-minute break for every 8 hours that you are on the road and a time requirement during the 34-hour restart. Chances are some form of this 30-minute break is already happening (unless you’ve got a bladder of steel), so a few extra minutes to meet the requirement shouldn’t be too dramatic.  I know waiting extra time with a tight deadline on the other end can piss you off, but it’s better than a fine.

 New rules for the 34-hour restart require two periods between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. This will ensure that you take at least 1 day off from driving–the necessary time to make sure you aren’t driving tired on the road.

Read Marc’s take on the impact after the jump >>

HOS v.3

My Take on the Impact

As I see it, the real impact of the HOS changes really comes down to who you are and how you operate.  Leased owner-operators or company line drivers on multiple shifts who are running their rig every hour of every day, this will absolutely impact the bottom line because it means less hours in the seat.  One report said that the new HOS rules could decrease driver productivity by 2 – 10 percent.

On the other hand, as an independent owner-operator, I am not anticipating a direct impact largely because it won’t change a lot of how I go about my time in the seat.  My personal driving habits already align closely with my internal body clock, which is set to take one day off a week.  This helps me know I’m staying safe, not fatigued so I won’t cause an accident. So for the owner-operator, I’m of the opinion that the disruption will be minimal.

Again, this is my opinion – and I’m not trying to say one is better or worse than the other.  But it’s inevitable that whenever there’s a change like this, certain groups tend to feel it more than others.

I worked with uShip to come up with five tips for navigating the new HOS rules. Hope you find these helpful:

1. Follow the Rules

Get familiar with the new rules, starting with this infographic. The FMCSA has made a pretty big deal about this so I’m guessing they’ll put some effort behind enforcing it.

The rules have changed so it is what it is. The way I see it, you have a couple choices:  Go with it or quit.  I guess the third is to cheat (and get caught) but no profit is worth putting you or others at risk because you’ve pushed yourself beyond the limit.

2. Set/Maintain Your Internal Body Clock

One of the most important things about over-the-road driving is to maintain a normal internal body clock. Sleep when you’re supposed to sleep, drive when you’re supposed to be awake, and take the proper time off to maintain a regular schedule.  For example, if I start on Sunday, by Friday at 5:00pm I call it quits and give myself Saturday off, then start driving again Sunday or Monday morning. My body restart already includes the necessary 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. break periods.

3. Log Hours, Analyze Habits

Keep a log book and keep it current. Stay on top of where you are spending time and for how long–it will be easier to keep track of when breaks should be taken. A proper logbook will also help optimize your schedule. Look over past weeks and months of driving, study your habits and then analyze your past hours to see if they can be tweaked in any way to maximize drive time while staying within the correct operating hours.

4. Be Prepared

The American Transportation Research Institute is predicting that as a result of the changes to the 34 hour restart, traffic congestion during daytime hours will be an ongoing problem. Be prepared to shift your schedule so that you can still complete hauls on time and maintain a proper body clock. There will be a time period of adjustment for everyone.

5. Do What It Takes

Be patient with yourself and with other drivers on the road adjusting to the new HOS regulations. It won’t help the bottom line to ignore the rules or become pissed off at other drivers that are slowing you down. We’re all in this together, so let’s learn as much as we can from each other.

If you are a relentless driver and will have a hard time scaling back your hours, do as much as you can and be satisfied. Unless you want to operate outside the law (which you shouldn’t), do all that you can do to the best of your ability–that’s all you can do.

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