Trucking hours of service (HOS) have been a hotly debated issue for at least the past year. The FMCSA’s mandate for electronic logging devices to monitor trucking HOS could not have had worse timing. The mandate went into effect just as the economy hit a major growth spurt. Now trucking HOS are limited while the demand for capacity loads has never been higher. This month at the Great American Truck Show, drivers and industry experts had a chance to “sound off” about trucking HOS and how the FMCSA’s mandate is not only hindering shipments but commerce throughout the country.

Trucking HOS and the Need for Flexibility

One of the biggest points of contention with the latest FMCSA regulations is about the lack of flexibility with trucking HOS. Mandated breaks and “off time” during a single day are a “one size fits none” solution. Truckers drive different routes at different times and in very different weather conditions. Having to stop or take a 30-minute break can actually make shipping less efficient, even for career drivers with spotless records. Currently, many in the trucking industry would like to the HOS expanded to a 14-hour window. This would make sense for short-haul drivers as well as those who have to travel in adverse weather conditions.

Sleep, Safety, and Salary

Imposing a 30-minute break doesn’t work for everyone. Before the mandate, truckers rarely drove for more than a four hour stretch without a break. Humans are not machines and cannot all be recharged by a mandated break. Truckers need to be able to stop when they need to, instead of when they are told. Penalizing truckers who need to take a break while still on the clock not only results in less pay but also increases the chances of accidents. The FMCSA mandate is potentially causing truckers to experience a decrease in take-home pay and may slow down the momentum of the economy at large. With restricted trucking HOS, drivers are not putting in the miles they used to, resulting in less pay. The restricted hours also mean that shipments are not getting to their destinations. Since the shipments contain everything from raw materials to food, medical supplies, and consumer goods, the restriction on driving hours impacts every industry and can cause price increases at the consumer level.

There is no clear answer from the FMCSA to address the concerns of those in the trucking industry, but if more voices are heard, maybe placing more flexibility and control in the hands of the people who are hauling shipment could result in an even stronger and better economy for everyone.