Hours of Service: Making the most of your limited time


The hours of service (HOS) regulations and Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate were established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to help ensure road safety from the crashes caused by driver drowsiness. The regulations limit the maximum number of hours that drivers can spend behind the wheel without mandatory rest breaks. Most drivers operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) must follow HOS regulations. Additionally, the ELD mandate also ensures consistent reporting for time logged on and off duty.

Hours of service violations are cited the most during roadside inspections. Understanding how to work within them to make the most of your time while staying compliant with federal regulations will help owner-operators and truck drivers increase their bottom line and keep their truck rolling as much as possible.

Plan ahead.

Develop a plan ahead of time before you start driving:

  1. Call your destination and ask about parking. If it’s going to be a problem, figure out a solution to deal with it.
  2. Look at a map. Check the GPS for road closures, tolls, traffic hot spots, etc.
  3. Check the weather. See if there will be snow through a mountain pass or flooding from rain.
  4. Know where to fuel up. Finding the cheapest fuel stops before you go will save you money.
  5. Make sure you have the hours you need to deliver on time.

It may sound like extra work now, but taking 10 minutes to follow these steps could save you hours later.

Multitask.

Combining tasks is one of the easiest ways to save time. Get in your pre-trip inspection while fueling your truck, or grab a sandwich and hit the restroom while refueling. Every minute you save is another minute you can spend on the road. And since saving 15 minutes a day is equal to about two hours a week, that’s more money in your pocket! Be as productive as possible every time you make a stop while staying within the Department of Transportation’s regulations.

Carry a portable cooler and stove.

Keep a 12-volt electric cooler and portable stove in your truck so you can eat anywhere. Bonus: You’ll eat healthier and save money, too! (Read more about gadgets to save you time and keep you healthier while you’re hauling.)

Nap at the right time.

You have to sleep to stay safe, so rest when it’s going to benefit you the most. For example, if you know rush-hour traffic is going to take an hour to get through, sleep for that hour and avoid it altogether.

Arrive early.

From dangerous weather conditions to mechanical issues, you know things can go wrong along the way. If you know it’s going to take five hours to get somewhere and you’ve got eight hours to do it, don’t wait. Get as close to your destination as you can with time to spare, so that if something does go wrong, you have time to deal with it. Plus, sometimes you can get in early to a shipper or receiver and that means you’re back out on the road faster.

Get the proper training.

HOS and electronic logging devices (ELDs) can be confusing. Not to mention there’s a wide variety of ELDs on the market and each one operates differently. Make sure you’ve been trained and fully understand how to operate within the HOS regulations. If you’re in a different truck every time you drive, take a look at the ELD so you feel comfortable operating it once you’re on the road. You certainly won’t want to pull over when you’re on the clock to figure it out then.

Log your wait time.

There are situations in which your wait time can be logged as off duty. There are pretty specific regulations around what counts as off duty, so make sure you’re familiar with them to remain in compliance. In general:

  • You must be relieved of all duty and responsibility of your truck and its cargo,
  • You must be free to pursue your own activities, and
  • You must be able to leave the location your truck is parked.

When on the road, do not log time as off duty unless all of the above situations are met.

Don’t forget to log time as off duty.

When you’re done for the day, make sure you switch the ELD to off duty. Do the same when you are dealing with truck maintenance or you switch drivers. It’s also important to switch to off duty when using the truck as a personal conveyance – say while driving to a restaurant, parking for the night, finding a hotel, or similar.

Edit ELD entries when appropriate.

If you forget to log your ELD as off duty when you’re on, or you don’t change it to personal conveyance when you’re trying to find a restaurant, know how to edit the entry to correct it. Any edits you make will be required to have the reason for the edit and stored in an audit trail, so use the edit option for true mistakes and not to cover HOS violations.

Plan your 34-hour restarts.

It’s inevitable that you’ll run out of hours due to the 70-hours/8-day duty limit. Make the most of those 34-hour restarts by planning ahead. Schedule any truck maintenance you need, visit family and friends, fill prescriptions and run errands, get your doctor visits completed. Plan your 34-hour restart in an area you want to see more of. Your time and how you spend it directly impacts your wallet, so make the most of any down time by being productive.

Don’t forget the adverse driving conditions exception.

Adverse driving conditions are circumstances you couldn’t have known about when you started. They include things like severe snow storms, flash flooding, and road closures due to accidents. (They do NOT include things like heavy traffic due to rush hour.) An adverse weather condition allows you to drive up to two more hours (for 13 total) to complete what could have been driven under normal conditions (11 hours).

Work with shippers and receivers.

Use your ELD to your advantage when dealing with shippers and receivers. If there are discrepancies in when they say you arrived or left and they want to charge you for them, check your ELD and correct them so you avoid any detention fees.


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