Shippers Feeling the Squeeze of the Hours of Service – By James Lee
The FMCSA’s most recent HOS (Hours of Service) ruling that went into effect in July of 2013 is one of several factors creating today’s trucking capacity crunch. Shippers and carriers, alike, are finding that what was once a 3-loads-per-week shipment is now down to 2 loads a week. A 625 mile next-day-delivery run is now extended to almost 36 hours due to a 500 mile per 24 hours limitation.
“It is simply taking longer to get product from the shipper to the receiver, and our hands are tied” says Mo Shearer, Choptank Transport Sales Manager. “It’s a problem that affects every transportation and logistics company out there. Production keeps running, but trucks can’t deliver fast enough. Even though the Hours of Service ruling has been in effect since last year, the shortage is creating a snowball effect and it’s quickly catching up on us. No one is happy about it”, concludes Shearer.
“It has affected pricing, as well," according to Lloyd Thomas, another Choptank Sales Manager. “For some time now, rates have been escalating because drivers are trying to make up for a lost day of driving time.”
The main issue that is the biggest hindrance is the accurate reporting of log books which are required to be maintained by carriers. With more stringent policing by FMCSA, gone are the days where a carrier can fudge on Hours of Service, and make up for time at a later day. With the demand for EOBRs (Electronic On Board Recording) gathering steam, it will be even more difficult for a driver to “cheat” in regards to HOS. Shippers are also finding that not only does it affect them in regards to actual transport time, but it also means that the FMCSA will be watching out for those carriers who are required to spend time supervising the loading and unloading of their cargo, only to report this as “down time." Below are two of the most misunderstood misconceptions about on-duty and sleeper berth activity in regards to HOS.
- Off Duty time does not equal Sleeper Berth time. Many shippers and carriers are under the impression that off duty and sleeper berth both apply to their 10 hour break. However, sleeper berth means that the driver is resting (not necessarily sleeping) in the sleeper berth compartment of the unit. Off duty means that the driver is completely relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work. A driver cannot log sleeper berth time if the driver is not in the sleeper berth compartment of the unit. If a driver who is in the sleeper berth logs this time as off duty, he can be found to be noncompliant for either an inaccurate log or a form and manner violation (which happens to be one of the most common violations in regards to HOS). Therefore, he needs to be particular as to how he reports this time.
- If you need to be there, then you are ON duty. Many shippers and carriers think that a driver only logs in hours when actually driving. They think that the time a driver spends on the dock supervising or assisting in the loading or unloading does not need to be logged. They think the same applies to a driver who is just sitting in his cab waiting while being loaded or unloaded. This is simply not true. According to FMCSA, “on-duty” time is defined as: “All time loading or unloading a commercial motor vehicle, supervising, or assisting in the loading or unloading, attending a commercial motor vehicle being loaded or unloaded, remaining in a state of readiness to operate the commercial motor vehicle, or in giving or receiving receipts for shipments loaded or unloaded.” Part 395.2 of the regulations elaborate even further as to the qualifiers included in determining “on-duty time”.
As a follow-up to the HOS regulations, a proposed rule prohibiting carriers, shippers, brokers and others from coercing drivers to drive beyond hours of service limits or in contravention of other federal rules has been released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
In addition to the prohibition of coercion and threatening drivers to exceed hour's limits, the rule puts in place procedures for drivers to report coercion to the agency and procedures for the agency to respond to the allegations. The rule was mandated by language in the current highway funding act, MAP-21.
The rule would make it illegal for carriers, shippers, receivers or intermediaries (brokers) to coerce drivers by threatening them “with loss of work or other economic opportunities (such as late delivery fines, unpaid excessive detention, etc.) for refusing to operate a CMV under circumstances that those entities knew or should have known would require a driver” to violate FMCSA’s hours limits, drug and alcohol testing rules or hazmat regulations, among other rules, according to the agency’s proposal. The rule imposes a penalty of up to $11,000 per violation on the entities prohibited from coercion in the rule. The agency also says it has the authority to suspend or revoke authority from a carrier, freight forwarder, or broker if it does not comply.
The proposed rule is the latest step toward the FMCSA looking beyond the carrier to other players within the supply chain. They have long been looking into issues such as driver detention to determine how shippers, consignees, and other supply chain players contribute to the well-being and safety of the carrier. While attending a recent annual conference of the Transportation and Logistics Council, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro stated, “Safety has got to be part of the supply chain, part of logistics planning, just as sustainability and efficiency are." At another speaking engagement, she stated that detention is “not just inefficiency in the supply chain, but inefficiency that is placed on the back of truckers and for which they are not compensated.”
With that said, the FMCSA is making it clear that they are holding all participants within the supply chain responsible for doing their part and cooperate as we go forward. As a freight broker, Choptank Transport works hard to meet the demands of our shippers while still being respectful of the issues our carriers face under the FMCSA ruling. Our position is to make it a win-win scenario for both parties.