Hours of Service Laws

  • April 28, 2015

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established within the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2000 to regulate the nationwide trucking industry. The primary mission of the FMCSA is to prevent commercial vehicle-related accidents, which is accomplished through the enforcement of safety regulations, research and data collection, the provision of commercial drivers’ licenses, and more.

Hours of service (HOS) regulations are issued by the FMCSA to limit the hours of commercial vehicle operators and mandate breaks. These rules aim to prevent accidents caused by exhausted commercial drivers, which promotes the health of commercial drivers and the welfare of all other drivers on the road. FMCSA studies have shown a positive relationship between number of hours driven and number of accidents related to driver fatigue.

The first hours of service rules were enforced by the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1938, and they have been revised multiple times since. The most recent revision went into effect in February 2012 and all companies were required to comply by 2013.

Impact On Companies

Current HOS regulations limit drivers to 11 driving hours per day and 14 total on-duty hours. With the most recent update, drivers are required to take a 30 minute break during every 8 hours on-duty. This rule limits drivers to 70 hours per week on average, down from 82 hours per week.

Drivers of commercial motor vehicles are required to keep a record of hours spent driving and resting, which can be inspected by the FMCSA, which is responsible for enforcement, typically at weigh stations. Violators of these rules can be put “out of service” for a period of time, and repeat offenders face fines. Companies that cheat the system risk serious fines.

Compliance with these regulations is not easy. Companies might lose productivity or incur added costs in the process. In order to reduce errors, some carriers have developed devices to record driver activity. These devices simplify the process for drivers and reduce oversight.

How Brokers Can Help

Given these new regulations, transportation could easily become more expensive and pass costs along the supply chain. Freight brokers can use their industry expertise to provide the most efficient, cost-effective transportation for any given situation.

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