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    1939, R. I. P.

    Nov 22, 2011

    New Year’s celebrations are often multifaceted. They can be traditional and nostalgic. Yet, they can also be challenging as we discard the old and bring in the new. The transportation industry is bringing in this New Year with a bang. Regulations and traditions established in 1939 are being discarded in favor of a brand new set of laws. These are new “resolutions” that are going to stick and cannot be abandoned like past weight loss vows.

    Truck drivers through out our United States will wake up to new rules on January 4, 2004. The new rules will change the industry dramatically. Although many of the changes will be positive, others will require major modifications by shippers and receivers of freight nationwide. The spirit of the change promotes increased restorative sleep for all commercial motor vehicle operators. If the program is successful, drivers will be less fatigued. The positive end result of more refreshed drivers will be a continued reduction in highway crashes and fatalities.

    The rules are called “Hours of Service (HOS)”. The HOS law obligates every commercially licensed driver to comply. The HOS rules allow a maximum number of hours for driving, for working (on-duty), and for resting (off-duty). Each transportation company must conduct their business activities within the scope of these rules. There are no exceptions to the HOS, and sizeable monetary fines can result when the rules are violated.

    Under the current rules adopted in the late 30’s, a driver could not drive more than ten hours before being required to take a mandatory eight-hour rest period. A driver could not drive if he was working (on-duty) more than 15 hours. Nor could he/she drive if they had accumulated 70 working hours over an eight-day period. Should a driver be delayed during the loading or unloading process, they were allowed to count a major portion of the wait time as “off-duty”. During this time, the driver could go to the sleeper compartment of the tractor and rest. By resting during the delay times, a driver could extend the workday to ensure all necessary activities (especially delivering freight to customers) were completed.

    The January rules will change the world of freight delivery. Although, the driver will be allowed to drive one additional hour each day (from 10 hours to 11 hours), the total workday will be reduced by one hour (from 15 hours maximum to 14 hours). There is also a mandate that the drivers rest period be increased from eight to ten hours. The biggest change within the newly adopted rules revolves around the wait time at the customer. Old rules allowed the driver to count the time as off-duty (and extend the work day). The new rule mandates all “wait time” be counted as part of the workday. Should a driver reach the 11th driving hour or the 14th work hour, they must stop and take the newly created 10-hour rest period.

    Should a five-hour delay occur at a customer’s dock, the driver will have just nine more work hours to complete all of their tasks for that day. Customer delays may become a nasty word within the trucking industry. Delays reducing productivity make a customer’s delivery schedule requirements increasingly challenging. Many companies have projected a six to twelve percent productivity loss due to rule changes.

    The industry will respond to the new rules with incentives to customers exhibiting improved loading and unloading times. The most efficient shipping and receiving docks will be charged lower freight rates. Trucking companies may also be forced to negotiate additional trailer “drop and hook” programs instead of requiring the driver to be present for loading and unloading of a customer’s products.

    It will be an extreme challenge for the industry, but the best companies will quickly adapt and prosper in the new environment...by combining the exploration of various options with a little trial and error, listening to their drivers, and communicating extensively with their customers. Once mastered, the New Year’s Trucking Resolution will not prevent the RG Transport drivers from excelling as they meet and exceed our customer’s expectations. Quality will still deliver quality.

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