Navigating Federal Hours-of-Service Regulations: Key Changes and Common Violations

Navigating Federal Hours-of-Service Regulations: Key Changes and Common Violations

Federal hours-of-service (HOS) regulations continue to be a significant concern for both truck drivers and motor carriers, particularly following the substantial updates introduced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in September 2020. These changes have notably impacted drivers’ daily routines, including:

  • 30-Minute Off-Duty Break: The requirement shifted from continuous on-duty hours to a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving.
  • Split Sleeper Break Adjustments: Revisions were made specifically for property-carrying drivers.
  • Adverse Driving Conditions Definition: Changes were implemented to the definition and handling of adverse driving conditions.
  • Short-Haul Exception: Expanded qualifiers now allow a 150-air mile radius and a 14-hour continuous shift instead of the previous 12 hours.

These updates followed a period of “light enforcement” related to the ELD mandate. Despite the regulations being in effect for nearly four years, confusion persists. Richard Malchow, a transportation industry business advisor with J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc., noted that HOS-related questions still comprise about one-fifth of transportation inquiries each month, with nearly half pertaining to ELD use.

Common HOS Violations

The confusion around HOS regulations has led to frequent violations. In 2023, HOS violations accounted for over 40% of driver-related infractions during roadside inspections. The most common violations include:

  1. Log Falsification:

    Each personal conveyance scenario is evaluated based on:

    • The driver’s physical state.
    • The driver’s off-duty status.
    • Whether the move benefits the business.
    • The purpose of the move.

    Improper use can result in violations, especially if a driver is too ill to drive safely or if the move is business-related.

  2. Form and Manner Violations:
    • These occur when drivers fail to manually enter required elements into an ELD, such as trailer or shipping document numbers.
    • For drivers using paper logs, common violations include missing dates or city comments.
    • These violations have a low CSA severity weight of one, indicating a low correlation with accident risk.
  3. No Record of Duty Status:
    • This violation occurs when drivers required to use an ELD fail to do so.
    • It has a CSA severity weight of five, indicating a moderate risk.
    • Addressing this issue involves ensuring ELD use where mandated.

Enhancing Compliance

To improve compliance and reduce the risk of violations, carriers should:

  • Understand Current Regulations: Regularly review and comprehend HOS regulations.
  • Assess Fleet Compliance: Evaluate the fleet’s adherence to regulations.
  • Provide Training: Offer training to address high-priority areas identified through roadside inspection data.
  • Track and Trend Data: Use data to identify areas needing policy reviews and targeted training.

HOS remains the leading cause of driver-related roadside inspection violations. Focusing on HOS training and systematic log auditing can significantly improve compliance and reduce liability.

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