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HOS Regulations Pros And Cons For Trucking Companies

Posted by Jeffrey Forbes on Aug 24, 2017 9:00:00 AM

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Hours of service regulations can pose an organizational hurdle to many trucking companies.  The penalties for violating these regulations can be disastrous, and ensuring the compliance of drivers on the road presents numerous challenges.  On top of that risk, a host of various exceptions and unique situations can trap the unwary or ill-informed company.  Companies need to do everything reasonable within their power to maintain their compliance with the appropriate regulations.

Hours Of Service Regulations In Trucking

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversees hours of service regulations for motor carriers operating in interstate commerce.  For those carriers only operating within a single state, state specific hours of service regulations may apply.  Having said that, many states have moved to make their hours of service regulations mirror the federal regulations.  Some of this movement has happened because the federal government has tied funding through the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) to the adoption of certain regulations.  Where states create less onerous hours of service regulations for intrastate commerce, they forfeit some of the MCSAP funding. 

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Safety On The Road And Hours Of Service

The Hours of Service requirements generally prevent drivers from driving more than eleven hours within a fourteen hour driving window and to have at least ten hours of off duty time between their fourteen hour driving windows. A host of exceptions can apply, including for things like bad weather and other emergencies.  For example,Colorado’s hours of service regulations include an exemption for emergency snow removal.  

Logbooks For Hours Of Service

Hours of Service regulations also require many truckers to keep detailed logbooks of their hours to verify their compliance with working hour limitations.  Exceptions can also apply to the requirement to keep logbooks, as well.

Studies have shown that hours of service regulations do help reduce the number of accidents involving commercial vehicle drivers.  They can also put a lot of pressure on both businesses and their truck drivers. USA Today recently ran a story about a California truck driver who admitted to faking his log book to work twenty hour days.  The driver claimed it resulted from pressure from the trucking company, who was fully aware of it; the company claimed it had no such knowledge and fired the driver.  While electronic time logging can solve some of these problems for a carrier, other issues, like the fact that a driver working second jobs can impact their driving windows, seem more difficult for a company to track accurately. 

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Penalties For Hours Of Service Violations

Penalties for failing to abide by the regulations can significantly impact a business.  Fines for both the driver and the carrier can reach as high as $11,000 per incident.  The FMCSA can also downgrade a carrier’s safety rating or its scores under the Compliance, Safety, Accountability enforcement program.  Finally, in extreme cases, carriers and drivers can face criminal charges and potential jail time for hours of service violations.

These penalties highlight the importance of ensuring compliance with hours of service regulations.  Carriers must know these rules and the applicable exceptions and do everything in their power to ensure strict compliance. 

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Topics: Trucking & Logistics, For Your Business, Managing Workers in Trucking