What Are the New Rules for Driver Hours?
Not so long ago, my husband traveled with students. Many, MANY days started at 3:00 a.m., or worse, were already well underway at that ungodly hour. I spent countless late nights and early mornings worrying about leaping deer, drunks on the road or exhausted motorcoach drivers. He is no longer keeping such crazy hours and I’m happy to report that the drivers aren’t either. There are new rules for driver hours. If you travel with students, you’ll want to be up to speed.
What is an Electronic Logging Device (ELD)?
In the old days, drivers could fudge their driving times. Not saying they did, just that they could. Traffic delays pop up, tour leaders get antsy about staying on schedule or unexpected stops throw trips off track. When hours were logged on paper, it’s conceivable that they could be misrepresented. This practice meant tired drivers might be behind the wheel longer than they should be. Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) changed this potentially dangerous practice. ELDs require drivers to log hours electronically, eliminating the stress of placating tour leaders.
An “equalizer” in the industry
Pete Pantuso, President of the American Bus Association (ABA), called ELDs an “equalizer” in the industry. In a recent article that appeared in ABA’s publication Destinations, he referenced ELDs. “Companies who may have operated under the radar and tried to push driving hour limits now must follow the same legal requirements for drivers’ hours or quickly be identified through electronic logs and reports, all of which will easily be accessible to enforcement officials,” said Pantuso.
Which vehicles are affected by the new rules?
ELDs are required for all commercial motor vehicles weighing 10,001 pounds or more or are used to transport 9 or more people (including driver) for compensation. They are also required on vehicles designed to transport 16 or more people (including driver) not for compensation.
How long can a driver be on-duty?
The question of how long a driver can be on duty has been settled. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) set regulations allowing drivers to drive up to 10 hours and be on-duty up to 15 hours in a 24-hour period. On-duty time includes the 10 hours driving and a half hour of maintenance prior to and at the end of the day. It also includes responsibilities related to the group. Ten hours driving is the MAXIMUM a driver can drive after 8 consecutive hours off-duty. Drivers can only drive 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days.
How do these changes affect your trip?
Let’s translate these regulations into real hours. Your group has traveled 7 hours to its destination. You arrive at 11:00 p.m. The driver parks, unloads the bus and goes off-duty at 11:30 p.m. He or she will not be back on-duty again until 7:30 a.m. Bus loading can then begin at 8:00 a.m. It’s important to be mindful of these changes as you plan the itinerary so the day goes smoothly.
Why are the changes necessary?
These updates are the direct result of a need to improve motorcoach travel safety. They help eliminate the temptation to keep driving beyond safe boundaries and cut down on drowsy driving. While it may mean rethinking the itinerary a bit, these new rules for driver hours are designed to keep passengers and drivers safe. We’ll all sleep a little better knowing drivers are rested and alert when those deer start jumping!