HOS impact varies one month in

TORONTO, (Feb. 16, 2004) — On the first day of the new hours-of-service rules, Navajo Shippers of Commerce City, Colorado, the state’s largest refrigerated carrier, billed a whopping $66,000 in delay charges to customers that kept its trucks waiting for more than an hour.

But for the most part, the differences reported in the first few weeks since the U.S. rules went into effect on Jan. 4, have been somewhat less dramatic. The most common concern flows from having to take 10 hours off each day rather than eight. That means more time away from home, with no return on the investment.

Ken Hostler of Hoss Systems in Ayr, Ont. says the new rules haven’t made a big difference. He runs a Toronto-to-Texas lane, where the extra driving hour works to his advantage, and the limits imposed by the 14-hour window of opportunity aren’t much of an issue. “Getting across the border costs me a few hours, but I kept it inside the 14-hour limit this time,” he said. “However, when I arrived for my 5:00 a.m. loading appointment, I was told I’d have to wait ’til 6:00 a.m. because the loader hadn’t shown up for work yet. ‘Go have a seat and we’ll call you,’ they told me. That’s going to have to change.”

In doing some math in his operation, JBT Transport owner Denis Mederios, also in Ayr, says he’s going to have a difficult time convincing his shippers of the need to raise rates to cover some of his new costs. “In a lot of cases, the new rules won’t affect their lanes directly,” he says. “But when I empty out, I’m looking at delays at that end that I’ll have a hard time passing on because I’m in between unloading and reloading. It’s hard to make the charges stick when the problems are systemic, rather than due to a particular shipper.”

Truckstop operators in various parts of the country are reporting varying degrees of parking problems, depending on the location. Gerry Rogers, general manager of the Buffalo I-90 East TA Travel Center, near Buffalo, N.Y., says he’s seen fewer overnight stays than usual, assuming that drivers are more focused on getting closer to their destination before they shut down. Much of his volume is Canadian drivers heading to U.S. eastern seaboard destinations.

Meanwhile, the TA Travel Center at Nashville, Tenn. is jam-packed by 5:00 p.m., says shop manager Charles Jacoby. “I mean, forget it if you’re not parked by dinnertime,” he says. “But here in the shop, we’re seeing a bunch of people who just don’t care how long a repair takes, so I guess they’re keeping the truck running ’til they have to stop for the night before getting it fixed.”

While some may claim that HOS hasn’t made too much of a difference yet, the truth is many drivers are still working the logbooks to reflect the rules, not necessarily the reality. Several have noted that it’s more difficult to be creative now, and with enforcement officials reportedly making many more stops to review understanding of the rules, it’s more likely that drivers will be stopped for a ‘coaching’ session than before. And at least one carrier has expressed concern that there’s time wasted there as well, while drivers wait for their review.

But it’s still early in the year, and the volumes have yet to pick up from the traditional post-Christmas slump. When things do ratchet up to a higher level, there may be more carriers like Colorado’s Navajo Shippers billing big bucks for waiting time.

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