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HOS Violations: No More Excuses

By Brad Penneau November 2, 2018

Although the Hours of Service (HOS) final rule was published nearly 7 years ago, HOS violations continue to be a cause for concern for carriers and drivers alike. 

In fact, Record of Duty Status violations (general/form and manner) continue to lead the pack of roadside inspection violations in 2018, making up more than 10% of the total roadside inspection violations in Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) fiscal year (FY) 2018.

Hours of Service requirements are core to the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, which is in the midst of some foundational changes to the way that carriers and drivers are scored. 

In this post, we’ll dive into what exactly the HOS rule is, how to avoid Department of Transportation (DOT) violations and how the CSA program is changing.

To learn more about Life After ELD, view the recording of our webinar with Heavy Duty Trucking.

Hours of Service (HOS) Rule

The Hours of Service of Drivers Final Rule (HOS) was published in the Federal Register on December 27, 2011. The effective date of the Final Rule was February 27, 2012, and the compliance date of remaining provisions was July 1, 2013.

(Friendly warning: Get ready for a flurry of acronyms!) The FMCSA’s key truck safety measurement program is called the CSA program (previously known as Comprehensive Safety Analysis). Within the CSA program, carriers and drivers are scored on seven Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).

The BASICs include:

  • Unsafe driving
  • HOS compliance
  • Driver fitness
  • Controlled substances and alcohol
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Hazardous materials compliance
  • Crash indicator

The HOS compliance category addresses requirements for all large truck and bus drivers to enhance safety on the roads by helping to enforce alert and awake driving that enables them to respond quickly. As the most common inspection violation, HOS violations continue to be an area of confusion and frustration for the industry.

Common HOS violations

Though confusing as a requirement, fleet managers and drivers are likely very familiar with HOS violations and the consequences, as one of the most common violations. Supply Chain Dive reports that in the 2018 International Roadcheck by the Vehicle Safety Alliance, HOS was the most common driver violation found. In fact, in 67,502 inspections conducted over three days, 43.7% of the 2,600 drivers put out of service were due to HOS violations.

The top 2 most common HOS violations are form & manner violations and drivers record of duty status not being current.

Form & manner violations continue to take the lead among all roadside violations. Record of duty status violations, 395.8, make up about 10% of all roadside inspection violations, and more than 70% of all HOS violations.

Part of the reason these violations are so common is that violations are easily identified by inspectors. While electronic logging devices aid drivers in maintaining information like total miles driven, drivers still continue to receive violations for either not having an ELD system post-ELD mandate, or for having information disjointed across different technology platforms that is not easily accessible by the inspector.

The driver’s record of duty status not being current, 395.8F01, makes up about 3% of the total roadside violations. While 3% may not sound like a lot, more than 20,000 violations have been already been given in 2018 (as of 9/28/18). If that pace continues, more than 6,000 violations are still due to be handed out before year-end. Don’t want one of those 6,000 to be you? Make sure you and your drivers are setting yourself to “on duty” when a shift starts.

If you want to avoid these types of violations, make sure you have an ELD system that alerts drivers when they are running low on remaining time, and when they have exceeded their limit. Because the right ELD system can make it easy to track and manage hours of service, there is no excuse to receive time-limit violations. 

Exactly how much is a log book violation? The short answer is that it depends, ranging anywhere from $1,000 - $10,000. The long answer is that inspection violations can impact your business far beyond the face value of the violation alone, and impact downtime as well as your reputation.

When it comes to HOS violations, technology solutions can drastically help in monitoring vehicles to make sure your fleet is operating safely and lawfully.

Post-ELD mandate, it’s more important than ever to use fleet compliance software that keeps mistakes to a minimum and helps reduce the stress of completing a daily HOS log.

How fleets are managing down HOS violations

To gain a better understanding of exactly how fleets are working with their drivers to reduce the number of HOS violations, we spoke with Jeff Kahooilihala, Director of Safety with J. Rayl Transport, Inc., where he is responsible for overseeing risk, safety and compliance throughout the company.

“While training drivers is always important, I think it is even more important to ensure that the operations staff (Driver Managers) have the same type of training and knowledge regarding HOS that the drivers do,” said Kahooilihala. “They are the ones responsible for planning the drivers time and it is crucial that they become subject matter experts as well in what the drivers can and cannot do.”

To mitigate HOS violations, J. Rayl takes a zero-tolerance approach and addresses any violations immediately with drivers. “Both the driver managers and the safety staff are responsible for ensuring compliance by the drivers. Any drivers who receive a violation are immediately reached out to, shut down and provided training on how to avoid the violation in the future.”

While safety training is an important part of working with drivers directly following a violation, Jeff also emphasized how proactive training surrounding load planning is also important.

“We still periodically have the drivers who will go a couple minutes over their HOS time,” said Kahooilihala. “With those drivers, we bring them in for training but that training is more geared towards load planning and what they can do to be better prepared and avoid those situations where they are almost out of hours and not yet at a safe location to shut down.”

Changes to the CSA program

Since the CSA program was rolled out about a decade ago, there has continued to be discussion and complaints surrounding the program’s execution. The goal of the program is improving fleet safety, and no one is contesting that. But a common complaint is that the existing scoring mechanism doesn’t paint an accurate picture of fleet safety performance.

A core factor in the CSA program is that carriers are compared to each other, which has been frustrating for carriers who have limited records in the system, thus skewing their scores after an unpreventable accident.

With carriers unhappy about, in their mind, their reputations being inaccurately represented publicly on the web, Congress heard countless carriers and lobbyists asking for a change to the program.

Congress then commissioned the National Academy of Sciences to review the CSA program and provide the recommendations. Last year, the National Academy of Sciences released their study about the CSA program, which the FMCSA is using to revamp the CSA program.

The FMCSA was required to post a response to that study, which they did in July of this year. In that response, the FMCSA provided the plan for how the program is going to move forward.

On the horizon

Ultimately, the report from the National Academy of Sciences is laying out the next steps for CSA reform.

The FMCSA is now planning on overhauling CSA, especially as it relates to the scoring formula.

It’s unclear to what extent the HOS violations, in particular, will be impacted by the upcoming changes, but you can expect that HOS inspections will continue to play an important role in the overall scoring mechanism.

The FMCSA continues to develop the CSA guidelines with one mission in mind: making roads safer. They have also provided some understanding of the context and situations drivers face and have even provided temporary exceptions in some cases.

For example, the FMCSA provided flexibility for weather-related circumstances, exempting motor carriers and drivers from HOS and other parts of the FMCSA regulations involved in Hurricane Florence relief efforts, demonstrating that the FMCSA isn’t “out to get” anyone for the sole sake of giving violations.

If you want to learn more about the state of the industry post-ELD mandate, check out this webinar recording: Life after ELD.

So now what?

While the trucking industry is competitive, the industry is more collaborative than competitive when it comes to safety. We all want the roads to be a safer place for everyone.

When it comes to the safety of your fleet, your drivers play a key role, but you have an opportunity to help them avoid inspection and hours of service violation penalties with the right technology solutions.

Brad Penneau

With a career in transportation safety spanning 30 years, Penneau’s experience includes progressively responsible safety, regulatory compliance, and training in (and in support of) the trucking industry.

Tags: Data & Analytics, Inspections, Performance & Coaching, Safety, Team Management

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