Scheduled changes in hours-of-service rules for drivers could cut productivity for some fleet operations by as much as 18%, according to an analysis conducted by Schneider National.

Engineers from the company's Schneider Logistics subsidiary have developed a computer model that uses current driver logbooks to quantify the impact of the new work rules, which will take effect on Jan. 4, 2004. Looking at data for the fleet's top 50 accounts and for a variety of freight characteristics, the model predicted productivity declines ranging from 2 to 18%.

The logistics subsidiary is offering the same service to any other interested OTR carriers. Working with electronic driver log records, it says it can prepare a detailed impact report in as little as 24 hr., outlining the impact of each rule change and providing benchmarking information comparing a fleet's productivity losses to overall industry losses.

Longer haul operations with little freight handling will be the least impacted by the new rules, according to Don Osterberg, Schneider National vp of capacity development and safety.

“Those with high-touch, multi-stop freight or freight that requires drivers to load and unload will be at the 15 to 18% end of the range,” he says. Cross-border and JIT operations will also be heavily impacted by the changes, Osterberg points out, as will lanes that must pass through large metropolitan areas.

The one HOS change most responsible for the productivity drop is the 14-continuous-hours on-duty rule, according to Osterberg. In most operations, “any possible benefit from the extra hour [of allowable driving time] is more than offset by the additional two hours of rest time and the consecutive [on- and off-duty] hour requirements,” he says.

Schneider has already begun planning to minimize the impact of productivity losses on its capacity. Among operational changes considered are a move to quick oil change centers to speed up routine maintenance and increasing trailer pools and drop lots, Osterberg reports. To give it some additional capacity flexibility, the fleet will also delay retiring older trailers as it takes delivery of new equipment orders, and continue driver recruitment activities.

The company is also “stepping up efforts to educate our customers about the impacts,” says Osterberg. As part of its educational campaign, Schneider is co-sponsoring an HOS “Productivity Summit” on Oct. 30 at Georgia Tech.