What impact do DOT regulations have?

We touched on it briefly in our “Is there a Driver Shortage?” blog. Today we will give you a little more insight into the specifics of government regulations and the impact it is having on the freight industry.

About 85 years ago, the first hours of service (HOS) rules were released. The Interstate Commerce Commission allowed 10 hours of driving time, 8 hours off duty time, 60/70 hours in 7/8 days, and drivers could run a split sleeper in two break periods. Since then, HOS laws have been through numerous court challenges, Congressional interventions, and countless changes.

Starting in the 2000s some major changes were set in motion- some of which were fought in court and were ultimately denied by the court system; others were implemented over the years. One significant change was to the number of hours allowed in each driver status. The hours changed to 11 hours of driving in a 14-hour window and 10 hours of off duty time. At the same time, the 34-hour reset was implemented. This allowed a driver’s hours to reset after 34 consecutive hours off duty. There were many other rule changes added, modified and removed throughout the decade.

The next, and most recent, major law change was the requirement of electronic logging devices (ELD). In December of 2017, the ELD rule went into effect with a two-year grace period for fleets using automatic onboard recording devices to monitor HOS. The requirement of ELDs made it easier to track HOS and increase compliance with those regulations.

That’s a lot of information, but what does that mean to you?

To keep it simple: it means more rules trucks have to follow that could impact the speed in which freight is delivered.

But, it’s not all bad.

These regulations were put in place to improve the safety of truck drivers and the public. While there is a lot of controversy surrounding these changes, the intentions are in the right place. However, it’s had an impact to the freight industry.

Drivers, who once pushed their limits with driving as many miles as possible over the course of a week, are now limited to whatever they can do in 11 hours of driving time. But they only have a 14-hour window to do it in. What does that mean? If it takes 4 hours to get loaded at a shipper, the driver now only has 10 hours to drive. They are also required to take a 30-minute break after 8-hours of work, which means they really only have 9.5 hours to drive. Add in the pre-trip inspection and they are likely down to 9 hours of driving time. The amount of miles you can drive in 9 hours is obviously less than 11 or 12 hours.

It also means drivers tend to have less patience. Most get paid by the mile, not by the hour. So when they are at your dock asking when they will get loaded multiple times, it’s because most aren’t getting paid to sit around and wait. Unless their wheels are moving, their bank accounts aren’t growing.

It’s important that everyone in the industry understands this. If we all work together and understand the barriers drivers face, it will improve the flow of the supply chain for everyone. After all, we need the trucks and drivers just like they need all of us.