34-hour restart provision may prove costly for carriers

The newest changes to the hours-of-service (HOS) rules take effect July 1, 2013. Many transportation companies searching for ways to enhance productivity and ensure drivers are taking the most direct route and staying in compliance with available hours. While many estimate the new mandates will put a dent in transportation company productivity, thanks to a shorter workweek for drivers, those constraints are also expected to raise costs.

Some in the industry are still certain that legal challenges to the requirements brought forth by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) will result in the HOS rules being overturned. However, not all carriers are optimistic. Those getting ready for the July 1 implementation of the changes are already preparing, and while some are looking to route optimization software to help them improve productivity, others are investing in the technology to help cut spending.

Costs to be more than anticipated
When it created the new rules, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimated the change would save the trucking industry roughly $133 million per year. That number has been hotly debated, and new data from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) revealed the restart-related HOS regulations will actually cost carriers more than $322 million more than estimated.

ATRI claimed the FMCSA's initial research was flawed and was based on biased numbers that skewed the data used in the calculations. The organization also pointed out that the FMCSA estimated only 15 percent of drivers would be impacted by the new rules, further limiting the credibility of the information.

"We know that the 34-hour restart changes are going to have a significant impact on our operations and across the entire supply chain," said Steve Niswander, chairman of ATRI's research advisory committee. Niswander is also and vice president of Safety Policy and Regulatory Relations for Groendyke Transport. "ATRI's analysis clearly documents the costs that our fleet and fleets across the country are likely to experience when these changes take effect on July 1."

This significant cost jump could come as a surprise to many carriers, especially those that expected little or no operations expense increases based on the FMCSA's initial data. To reduce spending and enhance productivity once these rules take effect, more fleet managers may implement the use of route planning software. Such technology can help a company cut costs, save time and boost efficiency, making it a valuable addition for carriers facing big financial impacts from HOS regulations.