While it’s too early to know how much the hours-of-service final rule will impact compliance and productivity, technologies already are available to help combat these challenges
After the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued its proposal to change the hours-of-service regulations in December 2010, thousands of carriers and drivers sent comments to the agency – many warning of serious economic impacts if driver hours were reduced by any amount.
Time will tell if these dire predictions are true, but in the final rule issued Dec. 22, FMCSA said with certainty that any negative economic impacts will be minimal.
Some carriers are not taking a wait-and-see approach before enforcement begins in 2013. Schneider National is using predictive technology to assess the impact of the final rule on its vast operations with an advanced tactical planning simulator to make decisions based on virtual pilot projections rather than use actual groups of drivers, equipment and company resources.
The TCP shows management how policy changes impact driver home time, pickup-and-delivery appointments, asset utilization and other areas. Schneider used its TCP to assess the proposed rule and now is evaluating the final rule.
Few fleets have the resources to do a similar “pro-forma” assessment of the changes in the HOS final rule – yet most have the technology to boost efficiency in the face of new challenges. When the new rule takes effect, which of these technologies most likely will emerge as the most effective weapons to combat challenges with compliance and productivity?
All major providers of onboard computing platforms say that between 70 and 85 percent of their deployed units have electronic onboard recorder applications and that virtually all new customers are using electronic logs. Changes in the HOS final rule likely will increase demand because on-duty time will become more difficult to enforce on paper. Consider the new requirement that drivers take a 30-minute break within the first eight hours; drivers and fleets will have to plan and monitor current and previous drive time more carefully.
“Real-time communications and automation helps to coordinate these breaks, causing the least impact to customer service yet staying within legal parameters,” says Drew Hamilton, executive vice president of Teletrac, which offers electronic logs in its FleetDirector platform. “Drivers will be prompted to take a break at the next stop before those first eight hours elapse.”
Electronic logs also eliminate confusion from the 34-hour restart provision. Applications will show drivers when they can return to duty. The off-duty rest period almost always will be more than 34 hours since it must include two nights. The earliest a driver could return to duty is 5 a.m. on the second consecutive night.
Anything that requires tracking over a long period of time always will be more difficult to coordinate on paper, says Eric Witty, product manager for Qualcomm Enterprise Services.
“The challenge on paper isn’t so much logging as it is auditing to ensure compliance,” Witty says. “Having to look back over multiple days of paper for a driver and to manually calculate if enough time has elapsed since the last restart is very time-consuming and prone to error.”
Also of Interest »