We looked with interest at the results of Roadcheck 2010, which arrived with comparisons for 2008 and and 2009.
What caught our attention was the percentage of drivers who were put out of service for Hours of Service violations: of all drivers put OOS, those sidelined for HOS violations was 52.1 percent.
We asked Steve Keppler, interim executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, which sponsors Roadcheck, to help us better understand the numbers.
He quickly pointed out that in 2007, that percentage had been 66.3 percent, so in three years, there has been a 21.4 percent drop in HOS violations at Roadcheck.
Keppler also noted that Roadcheck inspectors concentrate heavily on HOS issues during their inspections, so it’s to be expected that a high percentage of violations will involve HOS.
“Another thing to keep in mind is that percentage represents everything related to HOS, meaning it could be from problems on logbooks to drivers not presenting logbooks or logbooks not being up to date,” Keppler said, “so it’s not just necessarily 11-hour driving violations, 14-hour violations or 60- 70-hour violations. HOS and breaks continue to be major violations because they are most critical to the inspection and in terms of compliance responsibility for drivers and vehicles. We’d like to have it down to zero, but there are some good positives.”
In general, the current rule has been in place since early 2004, but it’s no secret that the education process for inspectors, carriers and drivers alike was lengthy.
So for awhile beginning in 2004, there were legitimate claims of a lack of understanding about HOS.
Does he think the industry be past that point, we asked Keppler.
“I do, and I think we see that in conversations with our members,” he said, “and our enforcement folks are comfortable and understand the rules. In conversations with drivers, our inspectors are picking up that drivers understand the rules.”
“One thing that’s of concern to us is that we could have changes [to HOS] and our concern is we’re potentially going through another education process.”
Of course, Keppler was speaking about the new HOS proposal that’s scheduled to be released later this year in the form of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
There was one area of concern in driver OOS violations.
The percentage of drivers put OOS for false logs increased to 13.3 percent from 10.4 percent last year.
“Besides just looking for compliance with the HOS rules themselves, our inspectors are looking to ensure drivers’ logs are accurate,” he said. “That means the inspector’s been able to discover evidence at roadside that the logs are not accurate, so it behooves drivers — even if there are going to be violations — to record hours accurately.”
It’s no secret within the industry that drivers complain about being forced by dispatchers to exceed legal driving or on-duty limits.
Keppler had some advice for drivers who feel they are put in that situation.
“Obviously, you want drivers to record their hours accurately. That’s really important for a lot of different reasons,” he said. “We understand there are pressures out there and I think that if drivers are seeing that on a fairly routine basis, there are mechanisms in place, including the whistle blower rule, to make their concerns known to state and federal authorities on being forced to violate HOS.”
CSA 2010 should help end some of those practices, Keppler believes.
“CSA 2010 will help carriers be advocates for drivers with shippers because those roadside violations are going to count against the carriers’ safety performance,” he said. “I’m hopeful that carriers will become more advocates for drivers when they are negotiating those contracts and agreements. I’m hopeful that will be one of the benefits and help change things, but there is still that issue of accountability throughout the whole supply chain and right now it’s an imbalance and it’s going to take some time to work out those issues.”
Lyndon Finney of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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