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New steps needed to manage HOS repercussions

“We're going to have to cooperate as carriers and shippers to work out these problems.”
— Cliff Harvison

IN ORDER to keep the bottom line in the black, carriers must take steps to counter the repercussions of new hours-of-service (HOS) regulations that mandate more rest for drivers and orient them toward a 24-hour work/rest cycle.

That was the opinion of Bill Webb, Texas Motor Transportation Association president and chief executive officer.

He and other trucking industry representatives addressed the HOS issue during a seminar January 13 sponsored by the Transportation Club of Houston, Texas. Cliff Harvison, National Tank Truck Carriers president, discussed the issue as the keynote speaker for the meeting in Houston.

Webb painted a bleak picture of the regulations and the demands they place on carriers and drivers. “The driver is stuck in the middle of this deal,” he said.

Webb advised carriers to educate drivers so that they understand the regulations and the impact they have on serving customers.

Carriers should focus on improving driver productivity through efficient dispatching, evaluation of trailer repair downtime, use of PrePass systems and toll tags, and trailer tracking. Exact load and unload times will have to be established and adhered to.

The new regulations prevent drivers from driving after being on duty for 60 hours in a seven-consecutive-day period, or 70 hours in an eight-consecutive-day period. This on-duty cycle can be restarted only after a driver takes a “weekend” off, that is, at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.

The current rules allow 10 hours of driving within a 15-hour, on-duty period and require eight hours of off-duty time. Long-haul drivers can drive 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration information.

“Drivers could run out of hours while on the shipper's property,” Webb said. “Under the new rules, they cannot pull up to a shipper with a five-hour wait and jump into the sleeper berth. They can run out of hours while sitting still.”

He advised carriers to develop a 2004 driver recruitment plan, predicting that the first quarter of the year will bring even more driver shortages.

“Carriers will have to choose which customers they can serve,” he said. Shippers that are causing major delays may have to be relinquished for those that understand the importance of timing.

Harvison voiced similar concerns about the HOS impact on carriers, adding that increased security measures also are adding burdens to the trucking industry.

“We're going to have to cooperate as carriers and shippers to work out these problems,” he said.

More problems are foreseen for chemical carriers than food or petroleum as a result of the HOS regulations because the petroleum operations are more likely to involve local routes.

“However, some petroleum carriers have long distances to cover,” Harvison said.

Of even greater concern is the problem of guaranteeing drivers enough hours so they don't lose money, he added. Some carriers have begun increasing wages and others are considering options. “Carriers will have to do something if they want to retain those individuals.”

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