This is a actual screen of the new electronic log devices being used in buses . The top bar graph is 10 hours driving status the second is the 15 hours on duty status graph and the last one is the 70 hrs in a 8 day period graph .
Today we continue our weekly blog on a story that will be dominating the motorcoach industry as December 18,2017 approaches. More than ever every second and every minute counts when drivers are out driving charters and tours. A plan in the works for years from the Federal Motorcoach Safety Administration got passed into law. A mandate that every motorcoach company must follow in the United States by December 18,2017. They must be in compliance with electronic log devices for their buses and drivers.
I think a review for our customers is in order in order so that they may understand more fully the impact this will have on their individual trips and motorcoach drivers. Still in tact as it always has been the 3 hours of service rules every driver must comply with but until now all drivers did their drivers log on paper and of course it could be adjusted misrepresented or simply fudged to continue to drive the exceeding amount of hours. The current Hours of service (HOS) for drivers is 8 hrs, 10 hrs, 15 hrs and 70 hrs. To break it down in the daily work day no driver may drive more than 10 hrs to go along with that no driver maybe on duty for more than 15 hours which means driving and or being still assigned to work duty such as touring , going out to dinner or doing other assigned duties but not driving, and during a 8 day period no driver may work more than a total of 70 hrs driving and being off duty not driving. Lastly a driver after completing his daily work must be off for 8 hours before resuming to work behind the wheel. All this was done to prevent bus companies from overworking their drivers , groups from overworking their drivers and lastly from drivers overworking themselves and causing the significant problem of fatigued driving. Over the years drivers while doing paper logs were mistaking their hours of service like driving to many hours in a day , not having the proper 8 hrs off between work assignments and it was hard for law enforcement officials to always detect fraudulent logs. These laws were always meant to protect the passengers who trust their lives with their drivers on buses. Going a step forward tour and travel companies were always trying to cram as much activities into a school trip in day D.C. Or New York City thereby creating a hazardous situation for the driver. Now with electronic logs it's going to require all bus companies and travel and tour companies to adjust their itineraries to reflect that their drivers are being compliant and everybody now is operating on a fair and equal playing field.
Now how will this all affect our schools and our customers as we go forward through this year. First of all many companies are now becoming compliant immediately and not waiting for the December 18th date. If these companies are operating the Electronic Log Device
(ELD) they will be utilizing the New on board computer system. So for our clients such as teachers and schools the important thing to remember is your driver more than likely cannot operate your tour the way it has been done in years past if you always had a packed full jammed itinerary. In the past most drivers being customer service orientated probably went over the 10 hrs driving status or maybe worked more than 15 hours on duty or maybe got up to accommodate a earlier departure in the morning meaning he was off duty less than 8 hours. Those situations can no longer occur. It is not because your driver or tour company wants to cut your day short or not leave earlier than anticipated he or she is by law required and the on board computer will not allow them to do so and if attempted or done it will put them into a violation status and could involve disciplinary action by various bus companies plus when the driver and or company has a DOT annual review those violations will show up and could result in high fines for he driver company or both.
So how does this work. Every time your driver starts his or her bus the computer is activated and the driver must log in. You will see a large computer screen somewhere on the dash which is visible for the driver to review where he is during the day related to HOS. When your driver goes in drive mode the computer begins the actual second by second driving time. When your driver stops it records how long he is still on duty until he changes his status to off duty at a location like a theme park or restaurant where no driver duties are required of him or her. At the end of the day your driver will log off duty and a complete daily recap appears as to hours driving, hours on duty, and he or she signs it just as if he is doing his paper logs but now it's on a computer data base. If a driver wants to start the next day without having the proper 8 hours off the computer will not allow him or her to drive without being put into a violation status and again forcing himself into a disciplinary situation at his or her company.
So companies like Blue Ridge Tours have Been trying to educate our teachers and school groups as well as our tour directors who work hand in hand with their drivers as to what the HOS rules are and how the driver is conducting his daily driving activities under the watchful eye of the the onboard computer . We cannot predict every minute of the activities and traffic congestion etc so this coming year as we transition into the ELD's it's going to take team work and understanding between school groups, group leaders, tour directors and drivers.
As an example as a driver toward the end of the day he can monitor how much exact time he has remaining. So say your on a DC monument tour or in NYC your driver as he is getting near the hour mark of time left allowed to be on duty he will advise the tour director and or group leader and advise them that at that point the day's activities must end and begin heading to the hotel in order to arrive at the hotel under the mandatory allowed hours on duty . By the way normal heavy traffic like in NYC or D.C. Or Atlanta is not allowed for a driver to say he had adverse conditions because DOT states we as drivers know as stated fact those places have heavy traffic on a daily basis. So when your driver advises he has to begin wrapping up the day day a teacher will think well gosh in other years we have been able to do more. Well your driver in supplying customer service probably went above and beyond in order to facilitate the request. Now no matter how much he or she would want to accommodate a group they will not be able to.
There has been stories of what will happen to the bus if the driver reaches the magic 10 hours of drive time or 15 hours on duty time. First it won't just creep up and surprise him as you approach within 2 hours of being in violation a prompt is given to warn the driver and continues every hour and half hour till you stop for he day or go into violation status. The bus will not shut down or strand the passengers but drivers are being trained to monitor their status and alert tour directors, teachers, group leaders that they will be approaching that period of time. What happens if you are on your way home from say D.C. Or NYC and your driver does start reaching his maximum allowed hours. The driver then is required to let his company know this and his dispatch will then begin to arrange a relay driver meaning another driver with fresh hours of service will meet your bus at a predetermined location and continue he trip home. Now,I'm sure there will be trips that a group wants to drive long distance to save a hotel or time and drive say from Greenville SC to say New York City or to D.C. Overnight and wants to tour all day. This can be done but it is done at quite bit more expense because it will require two drivers to complete the trip in a driver relay manner and still care as to the exact itinerary the schedule must be scrutinized to avoid violation of HOS. It's important for tour companies and bus companies to review and scrutinize more thoroughly as to the feasibility of completing the day's activities without the driver pushing to maximum allowed hours on duty. Blue Ridge Tours is doing just that as we begin to book and quote on 2018 trips. Keep in mind also there will be some trips that group leaders, tour directors and drivers will not ever notice anything different because of the more relaxed daily schedules but for those schools and tour companies that in the past have tried to squeeze every minute into everyday ,those days are now in the past. These new procedures are all for good and safety of the traveling public and the vehicles that share the road with the motorcoaches. So every second does count now 10 hours is legal 10 hours and 1 second is now a violation. Let's all work together to make this significant step in bus driver safety a successful one.