Scourge of the Trucking Industry

Hours of Service

The ELD Mandate is a source of contention within the trucking industry. As Phase 1 came to a close, industry segments petitioned the FMCSA for exemptions from the mandatory electronic logging device (ELD) installments.  Some achieved a 5-year victory; some won 90-day extensions; some gained partial exemptions. But, what are these segments really railing against? ELDs are only a tool for tracking Hours of Service (HOS). They don’t change the law, just the way compliance with the law is tracked. Which suggests ELDs aren’t the problem. They are the symptom. The real pain point within trucking is the HOS.

Hours of Service Explained

The HOS have been around since 1937 and were designed to help combat truck driver fatigue. While they have undergone changes over the years, here are the rules as they stand today:

  • 8-hour – A driver must take a break before or when a driver reaches 8 consecutive hours of On-Duty time.

    • At this point, the driver must take at least a 30-minute break of Off-Duty time.

  • 11-hour – A driver may only drive up to 11 hours on any given work period (after at least 10 consecutive hours Off-Duty).

  • 14-hour – A driver may not drive past the 14th consecutive hour following a driver’s 10-hour rest break Off-Duty.

    • A 30-minute break Off-Duty does not extend the 14-hour period.

  • 10-hour – The 10-hour Off-Duty rest break resets the 14-hour and 11-hour clocks.

  • 60/70-hour – A driver may not drive after reaching 60/70-hours of combined On-Duty time in an 7/8-day period.

    • At this point, the driver much take a 34-hour break to reset their work clock.

If the HOS is decades old, why is it a problem now?

According to the FMCSA, “An ELD synchronizes with a vehicle engine to automatically record driving time, for easier, more accurate hours of service (HOS) recording.”  Translation: there is no more wiggle room. Driving over the 11-hour rule, even by a minute, is a DOT violation and situations like traffic and long detention times can severely cut into a driver’s clock (and paycheck).  When paper logs were king, it was easy to manipulate time so drivers weren’t punished for circumstances outside of their control. With the ELD now doing the tracking, fudging time here-and-there is no longer an option. Once that clock runs out, that’s it.

Proposed Solutions

As a result, several carriers are protesting strict adherence to the HOS. They argue that the current rules actually increase instead of hinder driver fatigue. There are currently two proposed solutions:

Split Sleeper Berth Pilot Program

In November 2015, the FMCSA proposed its Split Sleeper Berth Pilot Program. This program will track around 200 drivers – 50 drivers every 90 days – and their fatigue patterns when allowed greater flexibility when splitting their sleeper berth time: 3-7, 4-6, 5-5. The current provision only allows an 8-2 split.  The actual study begins the summer of 2018. The goal is to determine if splitting the sleeper berth time will cut down on driver fatigue.


Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) filed a bill known as the Responsible and Effective Standards for Truckers (REST) Act that would add a pause button into the HOS. Essentially, once a day drivers would be allowed to pause their 14-hour clock for up to 3 hours. One of the REST Act’s arguments is, “Greater flexibility in hours of service requirements would better allow professional drivers to rest when they feel it appropriate and avoid congestion, adverse weather conditions, or other road conditions that decrease safety.”

What are your thoughts?

The HOS is not going away, but it can be changed. How would you like to see it evolve? Are you a fan of one of the two proposed solutions, or do you have another idea? Let us know!