Photo: Aaron Marsh/Fleet Owner
in-cab ELD

Petition to FMCSA: When truck drivers are detained, extend hours of service limit

Nov. 14, 2017
14-consecutive-hour drive time limit 'fails to reflect the reality of life on the road,' KeepTruckin argues

KeepTruckin, maker of an electronic logging device (ELD) for commercial truck drivers, says an adjustment needs to be made in the federal hours of service requirements: the consecutive hours limit on drive time should be extended when drivers are held up by shippers and receivers.  

It's the high school remedy for misbehavior. But in the trucking industry, detention is a shipper's or receiver's rather than a driver's fault and can be a real problem for commercial drivers, many of whom are paid by the mile or other operating measure.

Under federal Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, property-carrying drivers can drive for a total of 11 hours within a 14-consecutive-hour period after coming on duty. What happens is that drivers arrive at a stop, a pickup isn't ready or they can't unload and they end up waiting perhaps for hours.

But meanwhile, that ELD is ticking off available consecutive hours of service that those drivers are permitted to operate a heavy truck, cutting down their available window of drive time.

It's not fair and it's creating a situation that's unsafe, KeepTruckin believes. The company has launched a petition to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration calling for a drive-time limit extension from 14 hours to 16 hours when drivers are detained for more than two hours.

"You would hope truck drivers could use those additional three hours [allotted by the 14-hour limit] for resting or other non-driving requirements they have," said Travis Baskin, head of regulatory affairs at KeepTruckin. "The problem happens when those three hours are taken out of the driver's control."

This has been a known problem for some time, he noted, but ELDs have helped put solid figures to it — despite the fuss that ELDs have caused in the lead-up to them being required next month for drivers to log their service time. KeepTruckin analyzed data from its ELD product, which more than 200,000 drivers are using, and found drivers are being pressured by being detained.

Systemic problem

According to its analysis, KeepTruckin reported that 75% of drivers are detained at a shipper for more than two hours a week, and some 35% are held up for more than six hours each week. On average across its sample pool, the company found that truck drivers experience seven detention events per month.

Meanwhile, after being detained at a shipper, there's evidence drivers are feeling the heat. They drive an average of 3.5 mph faster after being detained for an extended time, KeepTruckin found, and in a survey of drivers, 81% of drivers said they felt pressured to get to their next destination after being detained.

One of the main purposes of ELDs was to stop driver coercion to work beyond their available hours of service — a "just get it there" attitude that's been a problem in commercial trucking for decades. But now the technology, as it more strictly enforces HOS requirements since drivers can't flub paper logs, is trapping drivers in a race to get where they need to go, KeepTruckin contends.

Also significantly, KeepTruckin argues that according to its data, the 15th and 16th hours are no more dangerous than the 13th and 14th hours safety-wise for drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

The goal of the petition ultimately is to help carriers and truck drivers get paid for detention time, Baskin told Fleet Owner. ELDs will help put hard data to drivers being detained, and KeepTruckin believes quantifying and bringing the problem to light will help solve it.   

"This detention problem is something that's been boiling over for a very long time, and now that we have ELDs in a lot of these commercial motor vehicles, we can see it come to life," he said. "Drivers who are held up at shippers and receivers aren't able to complete their 14-hour windows safely and effectively under the HOS rules."

About the Author

Aaron Marsh

Before computerization had fully taken hold and automotive work took someone who speaks engine, Aaron grew up in Upstate New York taking cars apart and fixing and rewiring them, keeping more than a few great jalopies (classics) on the road that probably didn't deserve to be. He spent a decade inside the Beltway covering Congress and the intricacies of the health care system before a stint in local New England news, picking up awards for both pen and camera.

He wrote about you-name-it, from transportation and law and the courts to events of all kinds and telecommunications, and landed in trucking when he joined FleetOwner in July 2015. Long an editorial leader, he was a keeper of knowledge at FleetOwner ready to dive in on the technical and the topical inside and all-around trucking—and still turned a wrench or two. Or three. 

Aaron previously wrote for FleetOwner. 

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