New HOS rules need more research; ELD reporting still frustrates

Hours-of-service (HOS) rules remain on the American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) 2020 Top 10 list of Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry. But paperwork more than policy changes frustrates fleet managers, according to another study.

The HOS issue fell from second overall to No. 10 in ATRI’s recent critical issues list drawn from responses by more than 3,100 industry stakeholders. HOS placed no lower than third in the ATRI survey over the past decade. It took the No. 1 spot for three years from 2013-2015. It finished second on five other occasions.

The drop in importance reflected the June 2020 final HOS rule that took effect Sept. 29, ATRI said. Drivers rated HOS as the No. 4 issue. Carriers listed it No. 10. The new HOS rules address four issues that motor carriers and drivers identified as problematic.

  • The short-haul exemption.
  • The adverse driving conditions exemption.
  • The 30-minute rest break.
  • The sleeper berth provision.

More research needed

ATRI survey respondents suggested several areas for additional research and analysis.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) now allows flexibility in rest times for drivers. It added a 7/3 split of hours a driver must spend after 14 on-duty hours to a little-used 8/2 split. More than one in three ATRI survey respondents would like to see research done with drivers using the 7/3 provision. They want to learn what safety impacts the increased flexibility is having.

Motor carriers and drivers also want an analysis of how HOS rules might be modified for Level 4 highly automated trucks. Even though driverless trucks are in their early stages, Navistar International Corp. and startup TuSimple are collaborating to bring a Level 4 truck to market by 2024.

Daimler Trucks North America is working on its own system with subsidiary Torc Robotics and collaborating with the Waymo unit of Alphabet to use its systems on Freightliner Cascadia Class 8 trucks. Daimler said in a media briefing last week that safety, not the clock, is driving both programs.

The FMCSA is studying how driver readiness and HOS rules designed to prevent driver fatigue would need to be modified for Level 4 trucking. Slightly more than one in four respondents think that work should continue following the agency’s denial of’s HOS exemption request for its robot trucks.

The third research priority called for better understanding of the expansion of the short-haul exemption to a 150-air-mile radius and an extended duty day from 100 air miles.

ELD reporting still frustrates fleets

Separately, a study from compliance monitoring firm J.J. Keller & Associates conducted a week before the new HOS rules took effect found that some existing HOS requirements created more confusion than the new rules themselves.

“Surprisingly, our survey revealed that top carrier challengers were not with the new HOS requirements related to personal conveyance, yard moves and unassigned driving events,” said Eden Weller, J.J. Keller senior manager of Customer & Market Insights.

Other issues included unassigned driving events, compliance with U.S. Department of Transportation record-keeping, specifically collecting maintenance and supporting documents.

The J.J. Keller survey was designed to gauge fleet readiness for the new HOS rules. It found that 15% of respondents hadn’t heard about the new rules. An additional 40% said they did not fully understand the rules or had not evaluated the impact of the rules on their operations.

“Basically, carriers are still wrestling with [electronic logging device] ELD mandate requirements,” Weller said.