The new truck driver hours of service rules don't take effect until Jan.4, 2004, but it's already time to officially debunk one of the more prevalent myths. Despite what logistics and distribution center managers may think, the new rules aren't just the fleet managers' problem. They'll most decidedly affect the average DC as well.
At first glance, the new rules sound innocuous enough. Drivers will be allowed to drive up to 11 hours followed by a 10-hour break versus the current 10 hours followed by an eight-hour break; remain on duty for 14 consecutive hours versus the current 15; and be required to go off duty for 10 hours versus the current eight.
Though that doesn't sound like a major change, truck operators are already gearing up for a big hit in productivity. An impact study commissioned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimated that operating costs will increase by $611 million and that motor carriers will be forced to hire 84,300 additional drivers. That's almost 20,000 more than the total drivers currently employed by J.B. Hunt, US Express, Covenant, Landstar, Werner, Swift and Schneider combined!
Surprisingly, their customers seem largely unaware of what's in store for them. At the recent Council of Logistics Management annual conference, I asked some logistics and distribution center managers how they felt about the new rules. Virtually all of them were either unfamiliar with the changes or didn't feel their distribution centers would be affected.
They couldn't be more wrong, as they'll quickly come to understand the first time a driver has to go off the clock while parked at their dock. The new rules eliminate the current ability to log "on duty, not driving" for rest periods and waiting time; and regardless of what the driver is doing at the time, when the 14 hours are up, he or she cannot move the truck. The driver must log "off duty" for the required down time.
Once the new rules take effect, it will be incumbent upon distribution center managers to do everything possible to get the drivers in, out, and on their way with a minimum of elapsed time. Here are some ways to do that:
No responsible person can argue with the intent of the new rules (i.e., to improve safety). But it's important to recognize that unless DC managers work more closely with the carriers, everybody's productivity will sag and costs will soar.