My colleague Kevin Scullin summarized the changes to the Hours of Service (HOS) in his recent blog post. It started me thinking about the practical effects of the new HOS rules on certain popular lanes that cover a length of haul of about 1,000 miles. Typically, a trip like that will take two days. A few of the HOS rules can make the timing of a driver's on-duty hours critical to a successful trip. For example, the lane from Chicago to Houston, typically a two-day trip, could be tricky under the new HOS rules.
PRE-TRIP: EARLY SATURDAY MORNING
A driver pulls into his terminal in Chicago two hours late, returning from Grovesport, Ohio at 2:00 AM on a Saturday. He parks the truck, retrieves his personal car and goes home to sleep.
Because of a delay on the way back from Grovesport, he misses the 1:00 AM cut-off time for his 34-hour restart. Under the new HOS rules, he needs to rest for two periods from 1:00 to 5:00 AM as part of his restart period, so he is not eligible to drive again until 5:00 AM Monday. That is 51 hours away, which means the driver got a 17-hour penalty for missing his pick-up by one hour.
Ordinarily, he would prefer to pick up his next load Sunday night, to avoid traffic leaving Chicago. Still, a 5:00 AM departure on Monday should give him plenty of time for a Tuesday 3:00 PM delivery in Houston, TX. The trip to Houston is 1,088 miles, according to PC-Miler. It usually takes about 19 hours of driving, and he has a 34-hour time period to complete the trip. That's never been a problem.
DAY 1 - MONDAY
5:00 - 5:30 AM PICK-UP & DEPARTURE
The driver arrives back at the truck terminal at 5:01 AM Monday and spends 15 minutes pre-tripping his equipment. He locates the trailer, hooks and departs the yard at 5:30 a.m. This starts his driving clock, while his on-duty clock is at 30 minutes.
5:30 AM - 6:45 AM
He enters Interstate 55, which is clogged with reverse commuters who live in Chicago and work in the high-tech corridor along the interstate. It takes an hour and fifteen minutes to run the 39 miles to Joliet.
6:45 AM - 1:00 PM
The remainder of the day goes better, except near Mount Vernon, IL where road construction has created a single lane of traffic averaging 40 miles per mile for about 45 minutes. The driver takes his mandatory 30-minute break shortly after that. It's lunch time, so he takes an extra 15 minutes to eat and stretch his legs.
3:15 - 6:15 PM
After three more hours on the road, the driver finds a truck stop -- there are three in West Memphis, AR -- and shuts down for his mandatory ten-hour rest break. His off-duty clock kicks in at 7:00 PM, which is 14 hours since he entered the terminal that morning.
DAY 1 SUMMARY: 559 miles in 11 hours of driving.
DAY 2 - TUESDAY
4:15 - 5:00 AM
After ten hours of rest, the driver still has to wait until 5:00 AM because his ten-hour off-duty clock only reset at 7:00 PM. He eats a leisurely breakfast at the truck stop, pre-trips his equipment and gets back behind the wheel.
5:00 - 7:00 AM
At 7:00 AM, he is approaching the Little Rock city limits. He arrives just before rush hour, as dozens of other big rigs are trying to beat the traffic, creating choke points on Arkansas River bridges into and out of this otherwise quiet metropolis. It takes half an hour to travel approximately 22 miles.
7:30 - 9:30 AM
All goes well until he reaches Texarkana. Another delay, this time an accident, reduces speed to 10 MPH for 30 minutes. Now the driver is worried. Will he make his 3:00 PM appointment is Houston?
9:30 AM - 3:00 PM
The driver has 5.5 hours left to drive 295 miles, which would require an average speed of 53.6 MPH and no delays. PC-Miler says that travel time from Texarkana to Houston is 5.5 hours. The driver knows that Highway 59 is a four-lane road, but it's not an interstate, so there may be delays en route. [Note: An earlier version of the blog mistakenly identified this route, but that typo was corrected by an alert reader. Thanks!] Even though Texas has the highest speed limits in the country, his truck has a governor that prevents him from driving faster than 65.
Plus, he still needs to take a mandatory 30-minute break before he has driven eight hours, leaving him just 5 hours of drive time. That means he needs to average 59 miles per hour or risk missing his appointment. This is not necessarily a problem, as long as it is legal and safe to drive 65 MPH. But if he encounters one of those famous Texas thunderstorms, how does that affect his decision?
Houston, we have a problem. The driver knows that if he misses the 3:00 PM slot by more than half an hour, he will be re-scheduled. He also knows that this particular dock does only loading in the mornings, so his next available appointment for unloading won't be until 1:00 PM the next day.
What should the driver do? Call his dispatcher and ask to be re-scheduled? Put the pedal to the metal all the way to Houston, and pray he doesn't hit any serious traffic or bad driving conditions? Or should he drive at a more moderate speed and try to talk his way into a late drop-off at the dock? What if this type of scheduling snafu happens in a state where the speed limit for trucks is 55 or less?
What would you do if you were the driver? Does it make a difference if he is an owner-operator rather than a company driver?
Please add your comments below. How will the HOS changes affect your business?