Amid changing regulations, fleets today are making significant changes to how they monitor and manage driver behavior, available hours and compliance with newly instituted regulations, not to mention how to best manage their costs, assets and delivery schedules.
I am referring of course to the new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Hours of Service (HOS) rules that went into effect July 1, 2013.
Since the inception of the Hours of Service rules in 1939, incremental changes have been made to available hours but none more directly impacting daily operations as the July 1 modifications. These new requirements have really stirred the pot, and fleets are scrambling to understand what they need to do to comply and to assess the implications on their core business.
One of the biggest challenges fleets face is implementing change management in how drivers account for their time and adjust to the new reset, and in some cases sleeper berth requirements. Along with behavior and time management, companies have to evaluate the impact the rule requirements have to their existing delivery schedules; how many customers they can deliver to in a day knowing they lost 30 minutes to a required break; how far they can move freight; and backup options if a company suddenly discovers it doesn’t have enough drivers that day because some are over their HOS limit.
For companies currently using EOBRs (electronic on-board recorders), the adjustment to the new regulations seems to be less challenging, and compliance is easier to ensure and measure. These companies are ahead of the curve as it relates to having insight into their fleet operations and use EOBRs to assist with change management when their business or compliance rules change. Furthermore, having a system that proactively coaches a driver on his/her performance against compliance standards in real time helps simplify the adoption and takes the guess work out of learning the new rules all at once. With less worries about compliance, companies can focus on more critical issues that drive revenue to their bottom line, like how can they optimize their drive and delivery times.
For fleets not already using EOBRs, these new HOS regulations will certainly require a longer learning curve and adjustment period for the approach they will now need to take to ensure their drivers are educated and operating within the confines of the new regulations. Change management without EOBR technology will require a more interactive approach to driver management, whereas users of EOBR technology enjoy a more proactive than reactive implementation of the change process.
A significant advantage to automating compliance is having a system that preemptively alerts potential compliance situations prior to a driver actually going into violation. An example would be not allowing a driver to log into the fleet management system when he has not had a sufficient break and therefore doesn’t have enough available hours to finish or begin his assigned shift. This proactive insight prevents the driver and the fleet from incurring violations and potentially costly penalties.
In reaction to the challenges managing the new rule set brings, some fleets, especially the smaller ones, will look for a low cost solution that will help them meet the minimum standards of HOS compliance. While this may suffice for compliance, these fleets will miss out on the additional benefits they could receive, such as improved safety, fuel economy, productivity, asset management and on-time delivery. What these fleets tend to overlook is for a few more dollars a month they could own a more powerful EOBR solution allowing them to go beyond HOS compliance and tackle additional operational issues head-on.