Why did HOS Violations Decrease in 2016?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently released its report concerning Hours of Service (HOS) violations discovered during roadside inspections performed in 2016. In a positive trend, violations for driving over the 11 and 14 hour HOS limits declined by 13.7% from 2015 and 22.4% from 2014!

Why were more drivers HOS compliant in 2016?

Increasingly, drivers are abandoning paper-based methods and utilizing electronic logging devices (ELDs) to log their Hours of Service. Most HOS applications provide a visual, graphical countdown indicating how many hours of drive time and on duty time are still available. In short, these HOS applications take the guesswork out of when drivers need to stop for rest.

With the FMCSA mandating all drivers begin using ELDs in December 2017, the number of violations will very likely fall even lower. The ELD mandate calls for a tracking device to be physically attached to the vehicle engine control module (ECM). Therefore, if the vehicle moves during a driver’s break or off duty time, a violation will automatically be logged. Not wanting to risk a violation, drivers will no longer attempt to drive during what is supposed to be off duty time.

Age is a factor

Conversely, the FMCSA report indicates the number of serious log infractions rose by 9.6% in 2016. More startling, the number of violations for a driver having no recordat all, paper or electronic, increased by 5.1%.

A major factor for this is age. Currently, the average age of a truck driver in the United States is 52. I personally know of two drivers who are in their late 70’s and still on the road. Because most drivers are at or past middle age, many have difficulty adapting as they have had little exposure to advances in technology. I remember several drivers who had issues adapting to the use of flip phones. After that struggle, I can assure you they are hesitant to have anything to do with the latest smartphone or tablet.

It’s all about attitude

Having been a driver in a former life, I am acquainted with the reluctance of many drivers to adapt to anything new. And while age is a factor, attitude is another. The typical over-the-road driver thinks of himself like a cowboy in the Old West – hardworking, strong willed and independent. These qualities are admirable and cherished American ideals. However, much like the cowboys of old, the reluctance to adapt will leave many frustrated. For a large majority, the inability to adapt will lead to unemployment. Some by choice. Others, not so much.

This begs the question of why? Is it education? Stubbornness? Defiance? Whatever the reason, these drivers should not be on the road. Law enforcements seems to agree, as the number of drivers taken out of service in 2016 during a roadside inspection was 187,669. Let that number sink in. 187,669 times, at some point during an inspection, the officer decided the discrepancies were so numerous in the driver’s log, or the lack thereof, that it warranted the issuance of an Out of Service order.

The cost of being Out of Service

187,669 times a load was delayed in 2016. 187,669 times delivery dates and dock appointments had to be revised. 187,669 times a company was put at risk of punitive fines for having a driver in violation. 187,669 times a company was put at risk of a CSA audit. 187,669 times unforeseen costs were accrued jeopardizing already thin margins. All because a driver could not or would not log their Hours of Service correctly.

Now for the good news

Per the FMCSA’s report, the number of drivers receiving citations for “record duty status not current” fell by an incredible 62%. A major factor for this sizable decrease is the use of ELDs. Because drive time is recorded automatically, driver error or manipulation is reduced and drive time is being recorded up to the minute. The number of these violations will drop even more as the ELD mandate goes into effect. The need for drivers to “estimate” any log entries will become unnecessary.

The benefits of ELD logging are just now being felt. A major benefit in the near future will be the ability to facilitate roadside inspections. As errors decrease in the logs and most of the information is logged automatically, the need for law enforcement and DOT officers to sift through a mound of paperwork will diminish. This will expedite the inspection process and allow the driver, and the cargo, to continue on their way. And as every truck driver, fleet manager and logistics manager knows, “If you’re not driving, you’re not making money.”

Geoforce provides vehicle tracking and an ELD solution that will have you compliant with the upcoming ELD mandate. Geoforce also has asset tracking solutions available to reduce the chaos for all types of operations. Contact Geoforce today for details and a demonstration.