Why you need Hours of Service

The increase in trucking accidents due to drivers falling asleep at the wheel or operating unsafe vehicles has heightened awareness that this problem must be solved.  Thankfully, changes in the DOT – Department of Transportation – regulations are coming.  These new regulations paired with advanced technology will mitigate driver errors.

HOS, or Hours of Service, is a federal regulation pertaining to the hardware, software and rules related to monitoring and reporting driver behavior and vehicle condition.  This includes tracking, dispatch, work orders, fuel tax reporting, state and other countries’ rules, and various exceptions to the general rules.  HOS was created to prevent the “Tracy Morgan” incidents of the world.  These types of trucking issues began in 1974 when the national speed limit was set to 55 mph, which limited the number of miles truckers could drive.  Since truckers are paid per delivery or per mile—either way, it’s a matter of time—the more miles driven, the more money they make.  Eager to maximize their time on the road, truckers began driving unsafe vehicles and driving too many hours causing them to fall asleep at the wheel.  Eventually, the DOT stepped in and began requiring paper logs.  However, the drivers went around it by keeping two different sets of logs—a legal log and an actual log.

HOS should have gone into effect a couple of years ago, but pressures from industry groups and lobbyists prevented the implementation of more stringent requirements.  Congress actually rolled back some of the mandates that were already there due to the Budget Act of last December.  That brings us to today’s regulations, where keeping logs of any sort is mandatory.  While e-logs, or electronic logs, are not yet mandatory, they are becoming more prevalent.  In fact, there is an anticipated update to the regulations coming out this October that will mandate the use of electronic logs.  While the phasing process for the implementation of HOS will most likely take around two years total, fleet companies large and small know the change is coming and are preparing for it by buying the necessary products.

The HOS app needs to have software that allows transmitting of the data, either Wi-Fi or cellular, in order to email logs to authorities.  Required hardware includes a tablet, preferably with a camera because some apps allow drivers to take pictures of the vehicle for inspection.  The majority of carriers use Android tablets because they are trucker durable.  IoS is possible but rare because it is expensive and not as durable.  An ELD, or Electronic Logging Device, will also be required in the future.  An ELD is the hardware that connects to the engine and communicates with the electronic logs on the tablet.  The ELD is a key component to HOS technology because it validates the data the driver enters into the tablet about his or her status, which cannot be done with paper logs today.  For example, if a driver were to update his or her status on the tablet e-log to “sleep mode,” but the ELD tells the tablet the vehicle is moving, the tablet will deny the driver’s ability to falsely record their log.  Additionally, the ELD provides more accurate recordings of non-driving activities than paper RODS, Records of Duty Status.  Each time the driver changes his or her duty status, ELDs are required to provide the location, time, engine hours, and odometer readings.

Certification of the products is done by the software provider, such as VisTracks, ISE and JJ Keller.  In order to be certified, the product must be able to offer the bare minimum essentials:

-Driver status

-Electronic log grid in DOT standard format

-Store information for 7 (+ today) on the tablet of logs

-Store information for 14 days on a portal

-Store up to 6 months of raw data

-Log reports (done daily) in PDF format

-Pre and/or post-trip inspection capability of required tractor and trailer components

HOS products should also have standard features:  1) A tablet that links back to the office, 2) The connection between the tablet and ELD must be maintained for 30 seconds.  If you’re looking to go beyond the standard features, there are apps that are capable of providing vehicle location for tracking purposes, advanced engine data, such as rpms, cooling temperature, speed and more.  Advanced services, such as the kind VisTracks offers, will send an alert when any of those have been exceeded.  While it is illegal to track drivers, these products can provide valuable information as to what the driver and vehicle are doing.  Also, the software app should electronically account for all rules related to driving as well as exceptions for oil fuel and bad weather.  The software then needs to generate accurate reports in the correct format.  A good app, such as VisTracks, will allow the logs to be edited electronically.

Carriers need a tablet and an airtime plan in order to sell HOS technology.  In fact, tier one carriers, such as AT&T and Verizon, are already selling these kinds of apps to customers.  However, many owner-operators buy these apps at truck stops.  Carriers could become the truck stop equivalent and use their own sales force to sell to small fleets.  Typically, the apps are sold as a monthly service with prices ranging $20 and up.  From a revenue perspective, carriers like to sell tablets with a data plan inside, which would be a good reason to sell hardware and airtime.  It is important to be able to sell the app with the tablet in order to maximize revenue.  Carriers can also receive monthly service revenues.  They should provide first level support by being able to answer basic questions about the app or solve connectivity problems that may exist.  Most drivers are knowledgeable about the logs; they just need to learn how to use the app, which typically requires 15-20 minutes of training.  More sophisticated apps, such as VisTracks, will have information on how to use the app embedded in the app.

VisTracks is willing to work with carriers who want to learn more.