Shippers will have to radically change the way they manage drivers’ time when the new hours of service (HOS) rules become effective, according to University of Michigan Professor Dale Belman, who has studied driver logbooks.

Between 1997 and 2001 he conducted a statistical study of 1,000 truck drivers at Midwest truck stops and found that 80% said their logbooks were inaccurate, with 54% stating that that they had worked more time than they actually logged – mostly by misidentifying wait time at loading docks as break time. On top of that, 64% claimed they had violated the 10-hour daily driving limit mandated by the current HOS rules at least once.

“That’s why I think the new rules are unlikely to reduce driver fatigue or [truck-related] highway fatalities,” he told Fleet Owner. “What’s key here is that in the supply chain today, trucks and drivers are used as a ‘buffer’ because there is no cost to it. There is no incentive to pay them for that wait time, so they are used extremely inefficiently as a result.”

Belman said, however, that the new HOS rules that go into effect Jan. 4 next year should effectively act as a “shock” to shippers – forcing them to radically change how they manage drivers. That’s largely because break time under the new rules will count against a truck driver’s total allowable workday of 14 hours.

“When something costs nothing, it’s not managed. But when there’s a cost associated with it, people start managing it better,” he explained. “So when the regulatory climate changes, we should see better [supply chain] planning emerge, which should help change truck driver work habits.”