How Fleet Managers Can Help Drivers Avoid Hours of Service Violation Penalties

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There’s very limited information regarding fleet conditions before Hours of Service (HoS) regulations were introduced in the 1930s. However, we can look into the early years of other industries and examine the tragedies that resulted from so little regulation. Consider the deadly fires and prolific child labor abuses within the garment industry that occurred before federal regulations were introduced.

While the garment and fleet industries are obviously very different, there’s much to be said about learning from history here. While neither of these issues is likely to occur in fleet situations, we should examine the challenges drivers deal with on a daily basis.

The high demand, the rush to fulfill orders, and the constant expectation for drivers to work overtime can often make it essential to mitigate risk via regulations — and adhering to them.

The 1930s were a tumultuous time for workers and the economy. It was the era of the Great Depression, mob crime, and Bonnie and Clyde. But it was also the era of rising government power and attempts to control the populace. The most prominent displays of this are visible in the history of Prohibition, the 18th Amendment, and the New Deal. 

Labor and economic regulations rose steadily throughout much of the early 1900s. Perhaps the first HoS rules were simply rolled into the rising call for regulations.

While we don’t have the data to show exactly what served as the catalyst for HoS regulations, drivers today enjoy at least some modicum of stability as a result. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how HoS regulations have changed and how your fleet company can avoid HoS fines — and keep drivers, fleet vehicles, and assets safer as a result.

The History of Hours of Service Violation Regulations

1935 HoS

The earliest regulations requiring rest for truck drivers were implemented in 1935 by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). Under these regulations, drivers were allowed to work for 12 hours at a time, within a 15-hour period. They also required nine hours of rest and three cumulative hours for breaks. In addition, regulators added a cap of 60 hours available to drive within a workweek of seven days. If these standards sound familiar, it’s because there’s been little change since they were first introduced.

Organized labor did petition a few years later, hoping to reduce daily and weekly hour limits. Their efforts were unsuccessful, however, and regulations didn’t change until 1962.

1962 HoS

In 1962, rules shifted to allow 10 hours of commercial driving operation within a 15-hour period. But while the ICC lowered the drive time permissible, they also shortened the break period from nine hours to eight. The alterations allowed drivers to complete a trip in fewer days, but it also meant they were more likely to max out their 60 hours per week. To complicate matters further, lawmakers added a sleeper-berth provision. It allowed drivers to split on-duty time with sleeper time. Again, this allowed operators to complete a trip faster, but it meant they had less time to rest.

2012 HoS: Not Enforced Until 2018

The rules were slightly changed again in 1992 and once more with the new ELD mandate in 2012. These new regulations weren’t strictly enforced until April of 2018 when they took full effect. These new regulations were part of the 2012 initiative, MAP-21, to alter highway safety and tolls. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), as part of this bill, created the ELD mandate, which altered HoS rules to allow drivers to work 11 hours within a 14-hour period. 

According to the new rules, drivers must have a break every eight hours, and there must be a 10-hour break between shifts. This still allows room for drivers to finish a trip faster, but it allows a little more rest time. Also, to ensure compliance, all fleet vehicles must have an authorized Electronic Logging Device (ELD).

Penalties for Violating Hours of Service Rules

  • Drivers may be placed on shut down until they have accumulated enough off-duty time to become compliant
  • State and local laws may assess fines
  • The FMCSA may place penalties on a driver or carrier, ranging from $1,000 to $11,000 per violation
  • A carrier's safety rating could ultimately be downgraded
  • There are potential penalties against carriers who knowingly and willfully allow or require drivers to surpass defined HoS
  • There are also potential penalties against drivers who knowingly and willfully violate HoS regulations

Compliance Requirement: All Fleet Vehicles Must Have an Authorized ELD Device

What is an ELD device?

An ELD, or Electronic Logging Device, records data about a vehicle. Basic devices record vehicle diagnostics such as engine run time. ELD devices that integrate with telematics software offer other features, including:

How Do You Get an Approved ELD?

Azuga offers ELDs, referred to as eLogs, that meet or exceed FMCSA 395.15 regulations for HoS and DVIRs — and they meet all requirements for the ELD mandate as well. In addition to Azuga’s Fleet management software, eLogs are simple to use and bring ease and accuracy to log-bookkeeping.

How Fleet Managers Can Help Drivers Avoid HoS Violations

In order to avoid DOT HoS violations, you’ll need to research the HoS rules to understand all of the rules, regulations, and the potential violations associated with each. Your drivers should know these rules and regulations to maintain compliance just as well as you do, so ensure it’s included in their training and onboarding processes. 

Of course, your fleet vehicles should also be outfitted with authorized ELD devices, as this is a key requirement of new regulations as spelled out in the ELD mandate. But ELDs (also known as eLogs) also help to resolve some of the most common violations during inspections, including incomplete paperwork, falsified records, or missing logs.

Knowing the rules and installing ELDs are obvious measures you can take to obtain and maintain compliance. Below are strategies for further reducing the risk of HoS violations:

Dispatch and Route Optimization

Optimize routes for your drivers to make the most of their time. Instead of getting locked in traffic or detours, they’ll instead have visibility into the fastest and most direct routes to appointments and back to the main office, warehouse, or other locations. This means drivers and technicians will complete projects faster and won’t get stuck on the road waiting for a reset on their HoS. It also means they’ll be able to get more done within their allotted time. You should also ensure you’re dispatching the driver nearest to each job across your various routes for each day. Telematics can help with both of these efforts.

Restart the Drive Cycle

HoS regulations include a 34-hour restart rule, which allows your driver to take 34 consecutive hours off to refresh their hours. In other words, after their break, they get a full 60-hour week back. This is a great way to mitigate your risk of violating HoS rules. If you have a telematics system, set HoS parameters for each trip to ensure you don’t go over hours.

Make Driver Rest Stop Plans

When drivers plan out their stops, they’re able to ensure there’s a place to rest within their HoS limits. It also ensures they don’t get too tired and helps them stay focused on their route. There are several rest stop locator apps, such as USA Rest Stop Locator

Some telematics systems also include rest stop locators in their route optimization. You can also integrate fuel cards with your telematics to identify gas stations along the route that are within your fuel network. You can use these stations as rest stops or incorporate them into your HoS planning.

Vehicle Maintenance

Fleet maintenance may not jump to the front of your mind when you think of HoS compliance, but there is a real link. Downtime for vehicle maintenance may trigger a domino effect, increasing the likelihood that your drivers take 30-minute breaks or drive overtime to make up for the downtime. Telematics systems help you track vehicle diagnostics and scheduling to encourage preventative maintenance. By reducing downtime, you can reduce the risk of HoS violations, too.

ELD devices, or eLogs, electronically log driver Hours of Service. They also ensure you always have accurate logs immediately available for inspections. Drivers and managers can't falsify these records, and they require no manual filing. With an authorized ELD and telematics, you're sure to always be compliant. Learn more about HoS compliance and ELD devices at Azuga and schedule your demo today by clicking here.