Should Truck Drivers Get Individual Exemptions from HOS?


Photo by Agê Barros on Unsplash

Truck driving is one of the most regulated professions in the country. Due to the amount of time on public roads and the freight weighing up to 80,000 pounds, safety makes sense as a top concern. One regulation, however, proves to be especially onerous for truck drivers.

HOS Regulations

The Hours of Service (HOS) are rules issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that dictate how long truck drivers can work, both for on-duty hours and actual driving time.

For example, a truck driver can work on-duty for 14 total hours with 11 driving hours before going off-duty for 10 hours. Drivers behind the wheel of a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) are also required to take a 30-minute break after driving for 8 consecutive hours.

Problems With HOS

While HOS regulations are designed for safety and to minimize fatigue, some critics argue that they have the opposite effect. Truck drivers are paid by the mile, so any limit on their driving time gives an incentive to speed and cover more miles.

The incentive to speed is especially true when drivers are tasked with making timely deliveries. Often drivers want to make it to the receiver before their arbitrary 11 hours of driving time runs out. As the clock ticks down at the end of the day, they may rush or drive more recklessly to get to the destination.

A lack of safe parking in the trucking industry makes this situation even worse. Truck drivers must try to schedule their time to park and rest around the HOS regulations, but there’s no guarantee a safe parking spot will be available at the very moment the clock runs out. It’s a game of musical chairs with severe penalties.

Any flexibility or leeway drivers used to have with these regulations occurred because a driver’s hours were written down in a logbook. Now, with the unprecedented surveillance of ELDs (Electronic Logging Devices) that automatically track and report violations.

Individual Exemptions – The Future?

An interesting solution may be coming from the bottom up, though. CDL Life reports that more and more truck drivers are asking the FMCSA for individual exemptions based on personal histories of safe driving.

While waivers have been granted during emergency situations, such as hurricanes or blizzards, the idea of individual exemptions is a unique one.

Unfortunately, the FMCSA has yet to grant one of these waivers. But with enough political and industry lobbying pressure, it’s possible that such a solution could solve the HOS dilemma.

Rookie drivers and those less experienced should be required to abide by HOS regulations for safety. But experienced drivers with a track record of safe driving should be able to apply for exemptions. They should be able to create their own work day.

If such a system could be implemented with the same electronic efficiency as ELDs, we could see major change in a system that deserves to be much more fair for truck drivers.