Since the new hour of service rules implementation on July 1, the fleet Schneider National says it has seen a 3.1% drop in productivity on solo shipments and a 4.3% decline on team shipments.

The results are similar to Schneider’s forecasted 3% to 4% decline, which was based on predictive modeling and presented as testimony to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in February 2011.

“The hours of service changes could not have come at a worse time,” said Dave Geyer, senior vice president/general manager of Schneider’s Van Truckload division. “We now need more drivers to do the same amount of work, but regulations, economic conditions and demographics are working against us in terms of recruiting new drivers. “We’re being restricted in the number of miles we can give them and the ongoing challenges that come with sharply rising operating costs.”

While productivity has been impacted, safety has not.

“Safety performance dramatically improved under the previous hours of service rules and there is no evidence to support that changing the rules has improved safety,” said Geyer. “Ongoing feedback from our drivers is consistent, they do not feel better rested as a result of the rules change, just less productive.”

For many drivers, the lure and independence of the open road are no longer worth the pay and regulatory pressure they are now facing, according to Schneider, adding that driver turnover is trending up and is back at prerecession levels.

Schneider cited a recent research brief by John Larkin, managing director of Stifel Transportation & Logistics Research Group, stating regulations such as HOS create a challenging driver market. “Virtually all of the proposed federal rules and regulations either reduce the size of the driver pool or reduce the productivity of the drivers remaining in the pool,” he noted. “As a result, drivers remain a scarce input.”

Carriers and drivers aren’t the only ones adjusting to the changes. Shippers are feeling the impact, too, said Schneider. Many shippers are indicating carriers across the industry, as well as their own private fleets, are already experiencing productivity and on-time service declines.

“To put it in the simplest of terms, capacity continues to tighten, productivity has been reduced and it’s harder and more costly than ever to acquire and retain drivers,” said Geyer. “This trifecta is a cost burden that carriers cannot bear alone.”