What Drivers Need to Know About Personal Conveyance

Personal conveyance has been an issue for truckers and truck owners, and now the FMCSA has responded.

For many trucking companies, December of 2017 marked the beginning in a whole new, electronically monitored, era in trucking. December was the deadline when companies were required to provide an Electronic Logging Device (or ELD) in each truck. Though the tiny flash drive type device plugged into the engine control module of the truck does not look like much, many truckers have stated publicly that this new mandated “mini boss” has made life more difficult instead of having the intended effect of making America’s highways and byways a little safer.

The ELD Deadline has Passed, now what?

Why the Mandate?

Those who support the new law insist that it makes perfect sense to replace the decades-old practice of having drivers record their own hours of service in a paper logbook. Some state that the new electronic logs will be more accurate while others insist they will be more difficult to rewrite when extra time is needed. They also insist that drivers will save time because they will not need to compile so much paperwork and that dispatchers will have a reduced workload with the ability to see all electronic information at a glance.

What is the Reality?

In reality, the hours of service that truckers are allowed to be behind the wheel have not changed. These current hours of service rules state that a driver may be on duty for 14 hours out of 24 but must then spend 10 off-duty hours before driving again. And while this sounds reasonable to most individuals, truck drivers and fleet operators know that current hours of service regulations combined with ELD regulations have brought a host of unanticipated problems. Sadly, these problems cost carriers money, time, and the ability to earn a living as kinks in the system are being worked out.

Faulty ELD Systems

Anyone who says they have never seen technology fail might not understand what technology actually is. The FMSCA reported in March of 2018 that more than 300 ELD devices on the market do not even meet the specifications needed so a driver can show logged hours to a member of law enforcement if they are pulled over. As bad as this is, it does not even begin to cover the number of units that have been sold and do not work properly.

There are too many drivers being ticketed simply because their ELD quits working at random times and they are unable to connect with the needed tech-support people. Some drivers say they have spent as many as 15 hours on the phone, both on hold and with a company representative trying desperately to get the required technology working. And this is time when the truck is still, the wheels are not allowed to roll, so no money is being made.

Add to this the fact that some ELD systems do not calculate hours or mileage correctly, some even showing that a driver is in an entirely different state and the new ELD requirement has had a very rocky start.

The “Right Now” of Electronic Logs

One basic thing that electronic logs lack is the ability to think, plan and consider as a human being might. And this leaves too many drivers dealing with a system that tells them to do x,y, or z immediately.  Drivers, however, know that this is not always possible.

For instance, when a driver is heading for a place to get loaded or unloaded and the system suddenly says that the 14 hours of driving is up, the system wants the driver off the road immediately.  Right now.  And this is simply impossible as parking a semi for the night requires more than just pulling off the road and setting the brake.

New Personal Conveyance Guidelines

Thankfully, the FMCSA listened to what drivers were saying about not being able to find parking quickly enough to satisfy the system and published some new guidelines about personal conveyance at the end of May.  Previous guidelines date back to 1997 and state that “laden” vehicles could not be used for personal conveyance (or getting to a safe parking spot).

The new regulations state there may be valid reasons for a driver to continue driving, whether there is a load on the trailer or not. The new guidelines allow for drivers to use their vehicles to get to a nearby safe parking place. To date, no limits have been set on distance but most drivers understand that they will be required to produce the ELD logs should they get pulled over, and that an officer has the right to determine if they have driven too far under the personal conveyance guidance.

Personal Conveyance Essentials

There are a few nitty-gritty parts to the new personal conveyance stipulations that drivers should know.  They include:

  1. The new guidelines are not legally required. A carried may decide to allow or not allow personal conveyance in a company vehicle.
  2. If a carrier allows personal conveyance, they are not allowed to place limits on things such as number of miles or times of day.
  3. Clear company policy on personal conveyance should be provided to each driver.
  4. Personal conveyance may only be used during off-duty hours.

FMCSA is Listening to Drivers and Carriers

At the very least, the changes to personal conveyance stipulations show that the FMCSA is listening to what drivers and carriers are saying about the new electronic logbook mandate. Hopefully, things will only get better as drivers, carriers and the government work together to find solutions that will truly make the industry better for all involved.

How Long Can Truckers Drive Before Taking a Break?

Regulations are in place for all commercial truck drivers to ensure they are not being overworked. A tired or worn out trucker is a danger to his or herself and everyone else on the road. The main restrictions on drivers are the hours they can drive and mandatory breaks. These rules are set by the United States Department of Transportation.

Duty Periods

The DOT breaks the time a driver is working into work and duty periods.  A work period is like a work week, whereas a duty period is like a work day. Because drivers do not always work conventional hours, DOT regulations are based on the actual hours worked and not specific hours during the day. So, for example, a work week could start at 5:00 pm on a Tuesday or 3:00 am on a Saturday and can be different for every trucker.

There is a seven-day work period for truck drivers. Drivers can work seven days in a row but must have a break of at least 34 hours in a row before starting a new seven day work period. To understand this better, consider this schedule:

  • Bert ends his seven day work period on Sunday at 6:00 pm. Following the 34 hour rule, his start up time would be 4:00 am on Tuesday.

The work period runs from the start time and date to that date and time the next week. For example:

  • If a driver begins the work period at 6:00 am on Sunday, then it ends at 6:00 am the next Sunday.

To begin a new work period, a trucker must have ten hours off work. The total number of hours that can be worked in a work period is 60.

Each duty period lasts 14 hours, which is known as the 14-hour rule. Drivers can drive for up to 11 hours during the duty period. However, after driving for eight hours, the driver must take a break of at least 30 minutes. Breaks of any kind count against the 14 hours duty period time. Here’s an example of a daily schedule that follows this rule:

  • Bert starts his work day at 6:00 am.
  • Bert takes a 30 minute break after eight hours at 2:00 pm.
  • He then drives from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
  • He takes another break to eat dinner from 4:00 pm until 5:30 pm.
  • Bert only has one more hour that he can drive, so he drives from 5:30 pm until 6:30 pm, at which time he reaches his destination.
  • Bert may then work unloading the truck or doing other non-driving duties until 8:00 pm when his 14 hour period is over.

So, the driver can drive for 11 of the 14 hours and do other things, such as getting fuel, for the other three hours. At the 14 hour limit, though, the driver can no longer drive and must take 10 hours off before starting a new duty period.

Exceptions

As with most things, there are exceptions to the basic rules. If a driver is starting and ending at the same location for a one day assignment, then the driver may work 16 hours. The actually driving time, though, is still limited to 11 hours. If there is a lay-over, then this exception cannot be used. This can only be used once in a period and requires a 34 hour break before it can be used again.

Bad weather can slow a truck down, so this can also cause an exception to be allowed. If road conditions are bad, a driver can take up to two extra driving hours during his or her duty period. The 14-hour duty period limit, though, still stands. This exception can only be taken when the extra driving hours are needed to reach a safe place to stop and get off the road.

Penalties

If a driver does not comply with DOT rules on breaks and work hours, there are penalties that will be assessed. These include:

  • Revocation of driving privileges until a rest break is complete
  • Fines at the state and federal levels
  • Reduction in carrier’s safety rating

A carrier may face even stiffer penalties at the federal level, especially if it is found to have knowingly made drivers break the law.

Possible Changes

It can be tough for drivers to maintain the hour and break requirements, especially when under pressure to get loads to their destinations on time. Many find the 14-hour rule to be especially difficult when break times are included against it.

Because of this, some lawmakers think there is a need for changes in the DOT hours of service. A bill, called the REST Act, is currently being proposed to change the ruling on breaks counting against the 14-hour limit. The act seeks to give drivers up to a three consecutive hour break period that does not count towards their 14 hours. The Act also aims to use this new three hour break to eliminate the 30 minute break requirement.

Regardless of whether changes occur or not, DOT is strict about the hours a trucker can drive. This is to help prevent them from driving when tired or otherwise unable to pay proper attention to the roadway, thus keeping everyone on the road safer.

How Truck Drivers Can Avoid Rush Hour Traffic

Ask any truck driver how they manage to avoid rush hour traffic and you’ll likely get a sarcastic answer or a chuckle in response.  This may be due to the fact that rush hour, in some locations, never really ends. Instead, the heavy flow of traffic continues night and day without really ever ceasing.  A few examples of cities like this include Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta and Dallas.

Meet the 14-Hour Clock

While some truckers respond to the humor that there is never an end to rush hour, others may react with a surprising level of frustration. Instead of talking about frustrating traffic, you may find yourself in a bizarre conversation about a 14-hour clock and forced bedtimes. Those not familiar with the ever-tightening driving laws in the trucking industry need only ask a driver to understand the startling level of frustration many professional drivers are experiencing.

Basically, the 14-hour “On Duty Shift” law was put into effect in July of 2013. Groups lobbying for safer highways and roadways frequently come up with ideas to help ensure drivers get enough sleep and are not a danger to other motorists because they are driving drowsy. This law states that a driver cannot legally work more than 14 hours out of 24 and no more than 11 of those hours can be spent driving.

Unfortunately, work, in this law, is defined as being on duty. And for a trucker, being on duty can mean being stopped in a traffic jam, waiting to have your trailer loaded, completing a pre-trip inspection, even taking time off to use the restroom. This ungainly law creates some truly bizarre timeframes as drivers are completely controlled by a button that starts the clock and a different button that says when their day must be complete.

The 14-Hour Clock and Rush Hour

Before drivers were forced to comply with a clock that was seemingly counting down the minutes before they must stop for the day, many drivers chose to avoid rush hour like the plague. Today, drivers with only a certain amount of time remaining on that clock no longer have the option of pulling into a rest area and sleeping or resting for a few hours while they wait for traffic to lighten. Instead, they must contribute to the traffic problem hoping that commuters in a hurry will leave enough room in front of them and behind them that they will not be involved in an accident.

Methods for Coping with Rush Hour

There are a few tips for professional drivers who simply cannot avoid driving in rush hour. They certainly do not take the stress out of the drive but may help to lighten the load just a little.  A few of these tips include:

  • Know when rush hour hits – Each major city seems to have a life ad traffic pattern of its own. Keep a record of what the typical times of day rush hour occurs and do your best to avoid them.
  • Take a break beforehand – In cases where rush hour cannot be avoided, try to take a quick break beforehand. Even a 10-minute stop to walk around and eat a high-protein snack may help a driver to be at his or her best.
  • Complete focus on the road – Make sure your truck is well organized and things are put away correctly. This way you can make sure nothing starts rolling around in the cab of your truck and your entire focus can be on the road. Also, avoid snacking, changing the radio stations or using the CB radio in rush hour traffic as any distraction can lead to an unfortunate accident.
  • Check Google Maps – Before entering a city where there is sure to be rush hour traffic, take a break and check Google Maps. Quite frequently it will show where the worst traffic spots are and even show different routes that may save time and frustration.
  • Maintain recommended spacing – Maintaining the correct spacing between your rig and the cars around you is easier said than done, especially as some drivers see a truck as the perfect opportunity for a lane change. Be ready for automobiles to pull in front of you, or to pull to close to the back of your trailer and respond appropriately.
  • Pay attention to blind spots – It can be difficult to pay attention to where each car is in relation to your semi, especially in rush hour traffic, but practice can make perfect. Some drivers talk to themselves about which cars are where. This helps them notice when one vehicle disappears into one of their many blind spots.

A New House Bill

A new bill has been proposed in the House of Representatives that many drivers are rooting for. This bill would let truck drivers take a break of up to 3 hours that would not count as part of their 14-hour limit. Should this new bill pass, drivers would once again be able to stop and rest before hitting (and contributing to) rush hour traffic.

The ELD Deadline Has Passed: Now What?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration put into effect a new mandate for truck drivers regarding how they log their hours. The ELD mandate went into effect on April 1, 2018 and requires all drivers to now use an electronic logging device to track and record their hours of service. These devices are installed into the vehicles and automatically record driving times. If a driver is found to not have an ELD and not be using one to log hours of service, the driver will fail an inspection and not be able to drive.

What Happens When a Truck Is Not ELD Compliant?

The rules under the mandate indicate that on and after April 1, 2018, all drivers must use an ELD. If a driver is not using one, he or she cannot drive and must be placed out of service. They will not be required to stop driving at an inspection point, though. They can continue to their destination, but cannot drive after that. The driver cannot drive again until after a ten hour period even if he or she becomes compliant within that time. Drivers may face fines if they are not compliant with the law.

How To Ensure Compliance

Drivers and carriers must take ELD requirements seriously to avoid penalties. To ensure compliance, drivers need to choose a device from the list of FMCSA-approved ELDs. It is also important for drivers to remember that not all electronic recording devices are created equal, and therefore, not all are approved. The devices that will comply with FMCSA regulations all draw information from the engine automatically. Also, as part of the mandate, a driver must have with him or her in the truck the user manual, ELD malfunction sheet and data transfer instructions.

Once they have a device, truck drivers need to learn how to use it. Having it is not enough to be completely compliant. It is important that a driver knows how to transfer the information on the ELD because this must be done during inspections. In addition, every driver must know how to log out.

Dealing With Common Issues

Since ELDs are being used to monitor service hours and ensure drivers are staying within the limits and operating legally, it is imperative to ensure the information on the device is accurate. However, there have already been some common issues that are causing problems for truck drivers.

As with any electronic device, an ELD can malfunction. This was taken into consideration when the law was implemented. If their devices malfunction, drivers are allowed to use a paper log system for up to eight days while the ELD is repaired. The eight day period can be extended but a request must be made. Extensions are typically granted if the device is not accurately recording hours due to an internal issue, but decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

ELDs have an edit feature that every truck driver needs to know how to use. Edits may be required in many different situations to fix issues with recorded hours that were not actually drive hours. Only a driver should edit information in the ELD because the driver is the one ultimately responsible for the information. Edits made by others have to be approved through the system before they are recorded. If a driver does not okay an edit, it will not be recorded.

The device keeps a record of both edited and unedited versions of the logs, so any mistakes can be fixed and edits cannot be used to get around the hours of service laws.

Another common issue is hours when the driver is not the one behind the wheel yet they are recorded as drive hours. The best way to avoid this issue is to assign a maintenance log in for anyone else who will drive the truck. For example, if the truck requires maintenance, then whenever the truck is driven by maintenance personnel, they need to use the maintenance log in. That way, the hours are going under something and not being left for the driver to have to worry about.

While the new ELD rule can be great for many reasons, such as reducing paperwork, some may find it frustrating. However, being compliant with the FMCSA’s ELD requirements is mandatory. Drivers are the ones who ultimately hold the responsibility to ensure compliance. They need to be aware of the rules and know how to use the device properly or they could face penalties.

What is the ELD Mandate?

Truck drivers and other commercial motor carriers need to be aware of the ELD mandate, which all commercial fleets must implement by December 18, 2017. Some drivers may be asking, what is the ELD mandate? ELD stands for Electronic Logging Device, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration passed a rule that requires commercial vehicles to use these devices to electronically record a driver’s duty status.

Prior to the mandate, truck drivers used paper logbooks to record their hours of service. Not only does an ELD reduce the time it takes to fill out the paperwork, it also provides a number of other benefits to drivers as well as fleet and safety managers.

ELD System Functions

Tracking compliance in regard to hours of service is just one of the functions of an ELD system. Some of the others include:

  • Report on driver behavior – this includes information about idling, hard braking, and speeding
  • Map integration and rerouting – helps truckers avoid construction and navigate areas of high traffic
  • Automation of IFTA – makes it easier for companies to report fuel use under the International Fuel Tax Agreement
  • Streamlines DVIR – drivers must record and turn in driver vehicle inspection reports on a daily basis

ELD Benefits

The ELD mandate is expected to result in a number of benefits for both drivers and management. The initial goal of the system was to cut down on the amount of paperwork and increase accuracy. By doing so, it reduces the hassle of having to fill in a paper log every day; saving everyone time.

Dispatchers are able to keep up with a driver’s status in real time, and there is increased communication with those on the road. This helps them plan for the trip more efficiently and make sure everyone is in compliance in regard to the hours of service. Drivers themselves are also able to make better time because their routes are more streamlined thanks to the rerouting function.

For many companies, an ELD system will lead to increased revenue over time. This is especially true for businesses that integrate ELDs with other telematic equipment throughout their fleets. The data gained from these systems can help in the following ways:

  • They can show how to reduce the costs of operations and fuel
  • Show how to proactively maintain fleet equipment
  • Demonstrate how to create more uptime
  • Increase utilization rates

Integrating ELD systems can also improve customer satisfaction. With the optimized routing of trucks, materials and supplies are delivered quicker and with fewer delays.

Improved safety is also a benefit of using ELDs. Commercial trucking companies have a lot of liability, and overtired drivers have always been an issue. Because an ELD keeps track of the hours of service, drivers cannot fudge the time they are on the road. This keeps them more alert and able to stay safer, reducing the number of accidents. In fact, studies have shown that drivers who are well rested log around 10 percent more miles every week and are less likely to quit the job compared to those who work on limited sleep.

The rule surrounding ELDs include articles that prevent drivers from harassment. If drivers feel they have a valid case, the mandate has a provision for drivers to file a complaint with the regulatory board.

Exemptions to the Mandate

While most commercial trucks are required to have ELDs installed by December 18 of 2017, there are exceptions to the rule. Small businesses that have vehicles that are older than 2000 are not required to comply with the new rules. Companies with driveaway-towaway functions are also exempted as long as the shipments include the driven vehicles. For example, the ELD rules do not apply to businesses that deliver new motor coaches, and similar vehicles, to the dealers direct from the manufacturers.

Companies that do not have  long-distance operations,  are not subject to the log book rules, may not need to install ELDs. This is because records that are limited to fewer than eight days every 30 days are part of the exceptions.

ELDs and Tired Drivers

Although the use of ELDs have shown to reduce accidents due to less driver fatigue, the mandate is not enough to prevent tired drivers from being on the road. Companies are strongly encouraged to analyze the data they collect from the ELDs. Comparing different schedules and driving behavior can go far to determine which drivers are the safest on the road.

Some data scrutiny has shown that consistency is important. Drivers who start at the same time every day, no matter what that time is, are at a lower risk on the road. Those who drive irregular shifts tend to have more accidents.

Surprisingly, data has shown that short-haul drivers typically are at higher risk than drivers who drive longer hauls. The theory is drivers with longer drives have more opportunities to take a break and even a short nap if needed.

A Safer Tomorrow Starts Today- 3 Changes Every Trucker Should Make

Here at Western Truck Insurance Services, we want you to “Travel with Care”. We all know that transportation is a risky industry (truck drivers are 5x more likely to die in a work related accident than the average worker), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to reduce your risks and increase your safety. Today we’re sharing 3 doable changes you can make for a safer experience on the road.

Buckle Up

More than 1/3 of truck drivers that die in accidents weren’t wearing a seatbelt. The number should be 0. Hooking your seatbelt before you hit the road is an easy change to make if you aren’t doing it already (and 1 in 6 truckers aren’t). Accidents are a leading cause of death for truck drivers; 2012 saw 700 fatalities of large truck drivers and their passengers and another 26,000 injuries.

Re-commit today to better seatbelt practices. It could save you your life.

Stop Smoking

Truck drivers are much more likely to smoke than the general population. More than half of truck drivers (51%) currently smoke, compared with the U.S. average of 19%. We understand the urge to smoke on a long haul, but that doesn’t make the practice any less risky. Luckily, it is never too late to quit smoking. Quitting at any age has benefits and the sooner you quit, the sooner you can start to heal. Diabetics may notice an immediate improvement in blood sugar control and your risk of heart attack drops steeply after just one year.

Quitting isn’t going to be easy, but you don’t have to do it alone. Call 1-800-Quit-Now for phone help (a great option wherever your next load takes you) or visit SmokeFree.gov for resources (including a free chat with a live help information specialist).

Put Down Those Cellphones

Did you know that commercial drivers that text are 23 times more likely to experience a safety incident (like an accident, near accident, or inadvertent lane change) than those that don’t? Not 2 times, not 3 times, but 23 times. Isn’t that reason enough to put down that phone?

Texting is illegal for all commercial drivers. What exactly is texting? The rules might be stricter than you think. You are prohibited from manually entering text or reading text while driving. This includes sending a text, reading an email, IM’ing, visiting a web page, dialing a phone number (pressing more than a single button to initiate a call), etc. The penalties are hefty (up to $2,750 or driver disqualification for multiple offenses, not to mention the impact on your SMS score), but pale in comparison to the risk of accident or death. Put down those phones and drive safely.

Make the commitment today to make a few safety changes for a safer tomorrow. Trucking might be a dangerous industry, but there are things you can do to make it safer.

LA /Long Beach Harbor Clean Truck Program

Developments on the LA/Long Beach Harbor Clean Truck Program

Since 2008, the Port of Los Angeles Clean Truck Program has had the goal to make the surrounding area eco-friendly. Additional updates have been made throughout the years, and if you are wondering where the project stands now, here are the basics you need to know.

Timeline of the Project

The Clean Truck Program is actually one component of a much larger plan referred to as the Clean Air Action Plan. This plan was developed in 2006, and authorities in both Los Angeles and Long Beach came together to attempt to reduce the number of carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Aggressive milestones were put into place to make the trucks that come into the Long Beach Port more energy efficient.

In 2008, the port banned all trucks that were using engines  made in 1989 or older. In 2010, additional measures were taken to prevent truck engines made between 1989 and 1994 from entering the port. Another provision was added to limit truck engines produced between 1994 and 2003 that did not receive eco-friendly retrofits. Finally, in 2012, trucks could only enter the port if they met all specifications stated in the 2007 Federal Clean Truck Emissions Standards. The goal of these measures is to get companies to invest in more recently made vehicles that produce far fewer emissions than trucks in the past.

Concession Program

A big part of this plan was the development of the concession program. This program creates a relationship between the port and the licensed motor carriers. This program allows the owners of the vehicle to obtain funding and grants to phase out old, inefficient trucks. Since its implementation, the program has helped over 900 licensed motor carriers get new vehicles.

Success of the Program

Many people who heard about this program years ago may be wondering how successful it has been. In the first year alone, the program reduced emissions at the port by nearly 70 percent. By 2012, that number rose to 80 percent. As a result, the program has been extremely successful in achieving its goals, and many companies have moved over to using cleaner vehicles. This is advantageous for both the companies and the people in the community who live in the vicinity of the port.

While more work is required, the Port of Los Angeles Clean Truck Program is an excellent start. With the great success it has seen, hopefully more programs can be implemented in the future to make Los Angeles and Long Beach greener cities.