October 25, 2017 1:00 PM, EDT

FMCSA Hosts Webinar on HOS Concerns

Drivers switching jobs around the time the federally mandated electronic logging device rule takes effect need to report their previous seven days of service to their new employer, just as they would have when paper logbooks were the norm, government officials said.

The federal ELD rule, which goes into effect Dec. 18, mandates that commercial drivers who are required to prepare hours-of-service records of duty status adopt the devices. In effect, the ELD mandate will prevent carriers from requiring drivers to operate when their ability or alertness is impaired due to fatigue.

“That’s a good example of the fact that hours-of-service regulations aren’t changing,” said Tom Yager, chief of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s driver and carrier operations division. “With current regulations and in the future, a newly-hired driver working for another company needs to either provide the log pages for the prior seven days or they can fill out a certificate with time spent the prior seven days when they go to work with the new carrier. It doesn’t make a difference when they get into ELDs.”

Yager spoke Oct. 24 at an FMCSA-sponsored webinar on HOS. HOS laws dictate when and how long truck drivers can operate. The purpose of these laws is to avoid having exhausted drivers on the road, as they could endanger themselves and others. Certain industry representatives, including smaller trucking companies and owner-operators, have resisted the ELD rule. For example, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has filed lawsuits against the mandate that reached the Supreme Court.

The laws include a 14-hour driving window that allows a period of 14 consecutive hours in which property-carrying drivers can drive up to 11 hours after being off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours.

“Driving means all time spent at the driving controls of a vehicle while in operation,” said Peter Chandler, lead transportation specialist in FMCSA’s passenger carrier division and webinar guest speaker. “Time spent, for example, during a post-trip inspection, pre-trip inspection and layover is all time the driver is not engaged in driving time. Time doing those types of things does not count against your 10 maximum hours of driving.”

HOS rules ranked No. 3 on the American Transportation Research Institute’s list of most pressing concerns for the trucking industry, which was released Oct. 23. The ELD mandate ranked No. 2 on the list.

Despite the ELD mandate’s imminence, the webinar focused largely on other issues, from passenger carrier classifications to agriculture exemptions to personal conveyance.

Chandler drew a distinction between personal conveyance and commuting. He used the example of an owner-operator who picks up a shipment at Point A and delivers it to Point B. The owner-operator’s drive back to the terminal is not personal conveyance.

“Personal conveyance means you’re operating [the vehicle] for personal reasons and you’re off duty,” Chandler said. “If a bus driver is transporting passengers from one city to another, the return trip would be work-related activity.”

The industry-wide shortage of truck drivers appeared as No. 1 on ATRI’s list of pressing concerns. According to American Trucking Associations, the industry was short 48,000 drivers in 2015. ATA recently reported that the driver shortage could reach 50,000 by the end of 2017, and the shortfall could surpass 174,000 by 2026 if current trends continue.

Yager stressed that HOS regulations will remain the same for new drivers, regardless of whether they enter the field before or after Dec. 18.

“Trainees operating a commercial motor vehicle on highways are subject to all of the regulations that would apply to anyone else,” Yager said. “The rules do apply to trainees.”