Hours of service (HOS) compliance is an important part of risk management in the commercial trucking sector. In addition to trucking insurance and safety-oriented procedures, adhering to HOS guidelines for driver operations can protect fleets and their drivers while helping to avoid steep regulatory penalties. While “yard moves” are a common practice in fleet operations, there exists some confusion in the relationship between this practice and HOS compliance. Proposed guidance by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) aims to erase that confusion.
Yard Moves Defined
When trucks are operated in fleet yards, such as to position them for maintenance, cleaning, or logistical purposes, this is considered a yard move. The term “yard” may refer to several different facilities, including:
- Intermodal transfer points
- Port facilities
- Private parking areas owned by a motor carrier
- Motor carrier places of business
- Restricted public roads (restricted temporarily from public use by using traffic control devices like gates, lighting, or flaggers)
Prior to the implementation of electronic logging devices (ELDs), fleet managers understood that yard moves were considered off-duty time and as such were not counted towards driver hours of service. Unfortunately, ELDs cannot distinguish the difference between on-duty and off-duty vehicle movements; these devices automatically record each time a truck moves. If ELD logs were scrutinized by regulatory authorities during inspections, fleet owners faced the possibility of fines or other penalties. Potentially, those penalties could drive up expenses, including that of trucking insurance. The issue of yard moves came up during the ELD regulatory process, and at this time the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance asked the FMCSA to provide further guidance.
As noted above, yards may be any number of facilities where trucks operate. The FMCSA published initial guidance in February 2020, instructing drivers of commercial vehicles not to record yard operations as on-duty driving time. This new guidance supersedes rules established in 1997 that all driving, including yard moves, should be considered on-duty operation.
The FMCSA, in its proposal to broaden yard move guidance, is attempting to clarify what can be considered a yard and how yard move status can be applied to truck movements. In simple terms, a driver can treat truck operations as off-duty “only if the movement of the commercial motor vehicle (CMV) occurs in a confined area on private property(or intermodal facility or briefly on public roads).”
The use of public roads in the guidance can only be treated as off-duty time if traffic control devices preventing public use are deployed during truck movements. Without traffic control devices in place, driving time must be recorded as on-duty time for HOS purposes if the trucks are operated on public roads. Truck use on other public facilities, such as rest areas, must also be recorded as on-duty driving.
Special Considerations for HOS and Yard Moves
Commercial fleet owners know that risk management takes many forms. The foundational aspect to manage risks is trucking insurance. Compliance with federal and state motor carrier regulations is another critical component. Yard moves continue to create confusion, but if the FMCSA guidance currently under proposal is adopted, this will help fleet managers remain in compliance with HOS regulations.
Two considerations for yard moves can help fleet managers eliminate confusion with drivers. These are:
- Yard moves may be used to satisfy required 30-minute breaks as long as the yard move itself is part of the break. In other words, if a driver is on break and must move his or her truck in the yard, the break is still being satisfied.
- Yard moves, provided existing and proposed guidance is followed, do not count against 11 hours driving limits under current regulations.
Managing hours of service is an important aspect of commercial trucking operations. By adhering to HOS regulations and by following the guidance of the FMCSA and other agencies, fleet managers can supplement the protections of their trucking insurance policies. Ultimately, these risk management practices lead to safer, more efficient operations.
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