The circus surrounding the debut of the latest HOS rules illustrates all too well that when it comes to regulations, the inmates must be running the asylum. Between last-minute and after-the-fact exceptions, along with the first of what will surely be many clarifications, the HOS debut was far from flawless.
It’s not like the HOS rules were rushed through behind closed doors like “Obamacare.” The rules, in one form or another, have been in force for three-quarters of a century. It would be fair to say that the HOS remake was close to a 20-year process, yet we still ended up with the mess that debuted on July 1st.
Business Can Do It
When the first remake of the HOS rules debuted in 2003, touch screens were costly, practical only for big business uses, and incapable of doing much more than replacing physical buttons. Just four years later, when the original iPhone debuted in 2007, touch technology had been miniaturized, turbocharged, and priced so low that school-aged children were using what had previously been Fortune 500 hardware.
It wasn’t just school kids using the technology though. Instead of being a monument to complexity that required manuals, exceptions, and clarifications, unattended iPhones were regularly attracting the attention of toddlers who easily figured out the intuitive user interface. While these toddlers might not have gone as far as the E*Trade baby to make fortunes in online trading, they did make it clear that something complex could be made quite simple to understand.
But Bureaucrats Can’t
After 20 years in the remaking, the HOS rules remain so complex that clarifications to individual parts of the rules are typically longer than the rules themselves. I’ve spent most of my life in and around the trucking industry, but I can’t honestly say that I have a comprehensive understanding of the latest HOS rules. Even if I could make that claim, it would likely be obsolete in a week or two.
It’s important to remember that we’re only dealing with a 7-8 day work schedule here, not the meaning of life or the theory of relativity.
Perhaps Complexity Is The Real Intent?
It’s possible that this complexity may be a “feature” rather than a “bug.” If nobody can understand ALL of the rules, anybody can be found in violation of the rules. That means enforcement is at the whim and fancy of the enforcer. Great for the enforcer but not so much for the trucker. This is not an acceptable situation in a nation founded on the rule of law.