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Scheduling Drivers – Rest versus Profit

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Motor carriers are required to comply with all Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), including hours of service (HOS) regulations. They also have an obligation to all their employees to make a profit. Therein lays the dilemma of pitting adequate driver rest against the company's bottom line.

Critical Hours of Service Rule

10 hours off between duty tours is the minimum requirement. For over-the-road (OTR) drivers, 10 hours off is enough because those drivers are likely spending that time in their sleeper berth of their semi. When that is the case, there is far less to distract the driver from sleep, not that there are no distractions. However, when the driver is going home for those 10 hours, there is so much to distract him. First of all, there is the drive home. Once home, lawns need mowing, houses need attending to, families need time and these name just a few items that may distract a driver while home during his 10 hours off duty.

Profitability

In order for a trucking company to be profitable, it needs to run as many miles as possible per day with loaded trailers. Deadhead miles are not profitable but a necessary part of the business. That being the case, deadhead miles and loaded miles are added together and divided by expenses to come up with profitability.

The Debate

When does the company's profitability mean more than a driver's health and wellness? The driver's health should always be paramount. A driver without enough rest is a hazard to himself and everyone he shares the road with. Accidents bring down a company's profitability.

The Pressure

So that is that, right? No, unfortunately it is not that easy. Company managers feel pressured to put bottom line dollars ahead of all else. This leads to increasing pressure on drivers to violate any number of DOT laws and regulations.

When I speak with drivers, I frequently tell them that they must follow the law because it is their driver's license on the line. And quite frankly, any company who is willing to put a driver in a position where he feels he must violate the law is highly unlikely to pay any fines the driver might incur, or in fact to keep the driver employed in some other capacity should they lose their commercial driver's license. The response I receive back nearly every time is that the driver feels he has no choice. That he cannot afford to lose his job so he must succumb to company pressure to push longer on the road than legally allowed.

Recommendations

It is advisable that all employees are involved in transportation matters to be familiar with FMCSA regulations as well as individual driver circumstances. For instance, you may have a driver who lives just one mile from the terminal and another driver who lives 40 miles away. Will you dictate the same 10 hours off for both, even though the second driver will have to spend two of the 10 hours driving to and from work? Undoubtedly, there will be times when such considerations are impractical, however, those times will likely be less often than when consideration might be shown. What are the benefits of showing such consideration? Happy drivers, which in turn leads to happy customers.

Know your return on investment numbers. Track these numbers at least monthly so that you have an up-to-date knowledge of your bottom line profitability. Share the information with your drivers. Help them see how they can lead to higher profitability by their efficiency and safety on the road.

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