We're not the only nation in the midst of hours-of-service reform. The United Kingdom, for example, will implement its new “working time” regulations in late March. Perhaps if we take a look at what's going on across the pond, we can gain some valuable perspective on our own HOS challenges.
The new UK rules, which apply to all “mobile workers,” e.g., drivers, helpers and crew, supplement the European Union's driver hours rules.
Under the new regulation (see www.dft.gov.uk) working time is limited to:
An average 48-hour week, evaluated over a 17- or 18- week period;
Maximum of 60 hours in a week;
Maximum of 10 hours out of 24 for nighttime workers.
Working time includes driving, loading/unloading, training, vehicle maintenance and cleaning, and waiting time where the duration is not known in advance.
The rules distinguish between working time and other waiting-time tasks. Referred to as “period of availability” (POA), these tasks include foreseeable delays at loading/unloading points, accompanying a vehicle while being transported by boat or train, and sitting adjacent to the driver in team operations. POAs do not count toward the 48 hours per week limit. However, they must meet the following criteria:
Workers are not required to remain at their workstations;
Workers must be available to answer “resume work” calls;
Duration of wait time must be communicated to workers in advance
Drivers or helpers who perform tasks between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m. are classified as nighttime workers. They must not exceed 10 work hours during any 24-hour. clock period.
Although the new UK rules require rest breaks only after six hours, drivers must also comply with the EU's consecutive daily and weekly rest period (off-duty) requirements.
Daily rest periods must be at least 11 consecutive hours; weekend rest periods must be at least 45 hours. While daily rest periods can be reduced to 9 hours, the time must be made up within a fortnight (two-week period).
EU rules require tachographs, or onboard recorders, and limit driving time to 9 hours a day and 90 hours a fortnight.
This dual regulatory scenario has a number of operational implications. First, the UK rule has a two-year recordkeeping requirement that is not part of the EU rule. Second, the UK hours-of-service rules apply to helpers as well as drivers.
Third, operators must distinguish between working-time and period-of-availability tasks. Finally, special rules apply to those working between the hours of 12 a.m. and 4 a.m.
Most troublesome, however, is that under the dual regulatory system employers must ensure that all drivers comply with both sets of rules.
When compared to the work rules abroad, the HOS options facing fleets in the U.S. are considerably less restrictive. Just imagine how carriers here that rely heavily on nighttime freight movements would have to alter their schedules. And what about the pedal/multi-stop operators that would have to distinguish between “work time” and “periods of availability,” not to mention communicating to their workers in advance?
Interestingly, I haven't seen much reaction from the freight and passenger transport industry in the UK. That's certainly not the case here. We've had more than a few carriers warn of system meltdowns if on-duty hours are decreased, compliance oversight increased, or onboard recorders mandated.
Perhaps we could benefit from finding out how shippers, receivers and carriers abroad have learned to partner to achieve the best efficiency of their most valuable resource — drivers and mobile workers.
Jim York is the manager of Zurich Service Corp.'s Risk Engineering Transportation Team, based in Schaumburg, IL.