Tom Bray - J. J. Keller Industry Consultant
March 15 , 2019
While electronic logs have been remarkably effective at cutting down on hours-of-service (HOS) violations across the industry, they are not an absolute cure. Compliance with HOS rules and the prevention of fatigued driving among commercial truck and bus drivers remain critical safety concerns, and should be addressed through HOS-related training for drivers, dispatchers, and other operations personnel. The following 5 topics provide a basic foundation for keeping drivers compliant and helping your organization avoid related violations, out-of-service orders, fines, accidents, and litigation.
Compliance with HOS starts with the basic requirements concerning how long your drivers may drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and/or be on duty before they have to stop driving, and how long they’re required to rest, at minimum. Your company is free to adopt policies that set additional limits, as long as they’re at least as strict as the rules require. A summary of these rules is available on the FMCSA’s website.
This short-haul exception is for drivers of vehicles that require a CDL, stay within a 100 air-mile radius, and return home each day. Despite what some drivers believe, it is NOT an exemption from all safety or HOS regulations. It only exempts drivers from logs, supporting documents, and (for truck drivers) 30-minute breaks. Drivers must still follow daily and weekly driving and on-duty limits, along with all other safety regulations. In-depth training can help dispel any myths about how the exception applies.
Some HOS rules have multiple exceptions. Such exceptions can be useful, but also prove quite risky in the instance drivers mistakenly believe they’re eligible or use the exception improperly. Either situation can result in violations, penalties, and added liability. For that reason, your company should establish policies regarding the use of exceptions (most are found in §395.1) and train drivers to understand when they apply, and under what conditions.
Perhaps no HOS topic has created as much confusion over the years as the “personal conveyance” (PC) provision, which allows drivers to operate their commercial vehicles in an “off duty” status for personal reasons. An important condition for using PC is that the driver must be off duty, must be relieved of all responsibilities for performing work, and must not be overly fatigued. Almost any driving that furthers a business purpose or somehow benefits the company cannot be logged off duty. View the official interpretation of the rule and appropriate uses here.
“Supporting” documents are those that investigators may use to audit your logs, so drivers and support personnel must be trained on what has to be kept, where, and for how long. The rules for supporting documents in §395.11 changed when ELDs were introduced, with new requirements for what has to be kept and what’s expected of drivers. The rule requires the motor carrier to keep five types of supporting documents (six for drivers who use paper logs), and each document much contain four pieces of information. Up to eight documents must be retained per day per driver, and drivers must present the documents for inspection and submit them to you within 13 days.
Given their complexity and how often they change, the HOS rules practically demand training be provided on an ongoing basis to all affected personnel. Just one fatigue-related accident can spell disaster for a driver and his or her company. Avoid the consequences of an HOS violation by making sure your training program covers the regulations, guidelines, exceptions, company policies, technologies, and everything else pertaining to managing fatigue and staying compliant.
For information on additional HOS topics, including checklists on more key training points, download the Hours-of-Service Training Checklist whitepaper.
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