The Future of HOS for Fleets

In mid-2020, U.S. commercial fleets found themselves adapting to the FMCSA’s new Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, which extended driving times for adverse weather by two hours, eased 30-minute break requirements to only apply to drive time, permitted split sleeper berth times for the 10-hour reset, and expanded the short-haul exception to 150 air-miles, potentially allowing a 14-hour work shift. While these revisions were driven by industry feedback, questions soon arose as to whether—and how—these changes would affect road safety.

In May 2023, the U.S. government requested a report from the FMCSA comparing statistics from before and after the new regulations to determine if any noticeable changes had occurred. Researchers reported that while there was no “statistically important” change in safety events like crashes or fatalities, the number of vehicle inspections with HOS violations actually increased post-change. This was particularly interesting, as violations consistently trended downward in the years leading up to the new regulations. While there is always a learning curve for drivers adjusting to new regulations, the initial stats suggest that increased education and support for adhering to HOS guidelines are still needed. 

Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) Will Continue to Help

Though the uptick in HOS violations following the new regulations illustrated the need for increased training and adherence, a separate FMCSA study focusing only on ELD-related HOS violations (specifically, violations of the 11-hour driving-time limit, the 14-hour driving “window,” and the 70-hour “weekly” on-duty limit) showed a decrease of approximately 32 percent in the number of inspections with HOS violations since December 2017. This same study estimated that ELD use lowers fleets’ annual recordkeeping costs by an average of $53.68 million, as ELD automation features reduce time and resources in numerous areas of operation.

As fleets fine-tune their training tactics for updated FMCSA regulations—bringing new drivers up to speed and helping vets adjust their workflows—ELDs will continue to streamline daily tasks and reduce busywork for drivers and the back office alike. With progressive forms and confirmation screens to ensure data quality, ELDs help drivers spend less time transcribing data while providing easier insight into their current statuses. 

Similarly, clean and readily available data makes it easier for back-office staff and managers to compile reports, check for compliance, and improve operations with real-time information. This reduction in busywork also improves efficiencies and job satisfaction, supporting retention efforts across the organization. For example, new fleet management software (FMS) tools address one of the most costly and time-consuming tasks: researching, updating, and annotating unassigned drive time (UDT) events. These tools’ faceted filters, bulk annotation, and audit trails help fleets save hours every day, freeing up time to focus on more critical tasks.

These digital hardware and software tools empower fleets to work smarter—not harder—while future-proofing their processes and budgets, ensuring their readiness for whatever the industry and the FMCSA might have in store for the future. 

FMS Tools Support Tech-Savvy New Recruits

A common concern for fleet managers is the predicted driver shortage in the years to come. According to the ATA, 1.2 million drivers must be recruited over the next 10 years to replace drivers leaving the industry. Fortunately, younger drivers—and some veterans, as well—are increasingly tech-savvy and comfortable using smartphones along with their associated apps and interfaces in daily life and work.

Today’s FMS tools offer a similar smartphone user experience for logging HOS data, making it easier for new drivers to learn and interact with their ELDs and in-cab tools while increasing their likelihood of maintaining HOS compliance. These tools enable drivers to easily change their duty statuses, receive break reminders, and receive fatigue risk alerts, saving time and promoting safety on the road.

FMS add-on apps feature tools that simplify compliance with the adjusted FMCSA regulations, including trickier regulations like the split sleeper berth breaks. Simply following on-screen prompts helps drivers more accurately track their duty statuses with the press of a button, reducing the potential for errors. Digitized HOS data also prevents drivers from doctoring their records, protecting fleet managers by minimizing falsified documentation.

Many fleets will continue to embrace modern fleet training techniques to help their drivers make the most of their safety features, including hybrid approaches that combine live and virtual training sessions. For example, the Commercial Vehicle Training Association recently hosted a “lunch and learn” webinar covering a Deeper Dive into Safety Technology. These live sessions were recorded and made available for drivers and fleet managers to watch later, enabling them to learn more about current and emerging safety features – including the newest HOS trackers and alerts.  

Digital Tools Will Make Data Cleaner and Help Reduce Violations

Fleet managers are tasked with ensuring driver compliance regardless of their drivers’ routes and experience—which can be complicated when hauls cross state or country lines. In-cab tools will become increasingly important in keeping drivers aware of their HOS statuses and how they may be affected by their current locations. Digital compliance tools help drivers stay aware with reminders of upcoming breaks and driving limits, as well as U.S. timers that track 30-minute, 11-hour, 14-hour, and 70-hour DOT requirements.

Back at the office, FMS tools significantly reduce busywork for management and staff. For example, managers can use FMS tools to easily review log edits, identify violations, manage unassigned drive time, and monitor diagnostic events. This boosts fleet compliance by incorporating all necessary exemptions, including the 16-hour rule and yard move exemptions. And with easier access to real-time data, fleets save time and money through improved efficiencies and avoiding costly fines. 

Time Will Tell

The impact of the 2020 regulations on the trucking industry is yet to be seen, as FMCSA researchers concluded that more work is necessary to understand how the HOS guidelines affect road safety—especially considering the original study’s time frame included many “confounding factors” from COVID-era legislation. In the meantime, fleets can ensure they’ll always be ready to adjust and adapt to evolving guidelines—as well as their own emerging goals—based on real-world data and trends.

Explore Platform Science’s full suite of tools for fleets, including HOS timers and communications.