Friday, December 9, 2016

If HOS violations decline, does anyone hear it?

Normally I would answer that question with an emphatic no. However, someone did take notice. I stumbled across a fantastic piece reviewing hours-of-service compliance over the past three years. The Journal of Commerce did a great job spotting the violations that matter (driving over hours) and those that are pretty much BS (form and manner).

It was a well thought out and researched piece. I differ with the writer’s end-shot (more on that in a second), but I want to hit a few high points in the piece.

The overall number of hours-of-service violations decreased 13.7 percent from fiscal year 2015 to 2016, JOC reports from FMCSA data. Even better news, the Journal reports, is that violations for driving after 11 hours and driving after 14 hours both dropped by “double digits.” I did some quick math on the same FMCSA Analysis and Information data and found that to be 12 percent and 15 percent declines respectively. There’s more good stuff in the article here. Check it out.

While those are impressive declines, JOC also reports a jaw-dropping 62 percent decline in year-to-year in violations was for logs not being kept current.

I love the insight the reporter showed when talking about “form and manner” violations. Those violations, in the reporter’s words, are “typically minor logbook errors ranging from missing data and incorrect use of abbreviations in remarks to sloppiness in graphically recording hours.” Well done, sir. Well done.

By the way, those ticked up by 4.4 percent in 2016. Guess if the cops can’t bust anyone with a real logbook violation, they’ll take what they can get.

And here’s a giggle or an eye roll depending on your mood. Electronic log form and manner violations? I looked those up. Interestingly enough there were fewer than 1,000 inspections in an entire year all over the country of electronic devices for form and manner violations. I guess because it’s a gadget they aren’t going to worry about every T being crossed and every I dotted. Ohhhhh to be a cyborg. Just kidding.

The report also astutely points out the most recent year with high rates of HOS violations came after the most recent changes to the hours-of-service violations – back in 2013.

The only thing I really disagree with in the JOC article is its conclusion that the feds will take “a big step forward toward more exact enforcement” of HOS next year. I’m not bashing the report or reporter. It’s what the agency wants everyone to believe and some do.

I, for one, just don’t buy it.

The gadgets don’t know what a driver is doing when the truck isn’t moving. The only thing it knows as fact is whether the truck is moving or not. It has to take the word of the driver that the driver is who he or she claims to be. It has to take the drivers’ input that they weren’t working for the eight or so hours the truck wasn’t moving and not stuck at a loading dock waiting on Larry’s Lumpers to get to work.

Regardless, congrats to every single pro on the road who went through an inspection of their logbook and left without a violation. No one seems to praise and appreciate it – except those who really get it. Nice work.