7 Rules on Trucking Hours of Service

The trucking business is risky. Despite this fact, it continues to be one of the USA’s fastest-growing industries, with yearly revenue of over $700 billion. Also, the trucking industry has over 3.5 million truck drivers in the US.

Sadly, as the industry grows, so does the number of collisions involving trucks in the US. A truck carrying 50,000 pounds of fabricated steel traveling at 65 mph simply cannot be left unwatched. As a result, systems are in place to ensure that the person operating each truck’s steering wheel is well-rested, tested, and secure.

To prevent accidents, truck drivers must comply with the DOT’s Hours of Service systems. 

Hours of Service

If you are a shipper, you’ve probably heard the phrase “hours of service” or “hours of service violations” mentioned about your freight. But what exactly does HOS imply and involve?

The term “Hours of Service” denotes the maximum time that drivers are allowed to be on duty. This includes driving time, as well as the number and duration of rest breaks, to help ensure that commercial vehicle operators remain awake and alert while driving. 

The hours of service requirements must be followed by all carriers and drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). A CMV is a vehicle that is used for business purposes, participates in interstate commerce, and fits any of the following criteria:

  • Vehicles carrying hazardous materials in quantities that warrant placards.
  • Vehicles intended or used for the non-compensatory transportation of at least 16 passengers, including the driver.
  • Vehicle of 10,001 pounds or above in weight.
  • Vehicle of 10,001 pounds or more in gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating.

Drivers who are caught indulging in DOT’s hours of service violations may be required to put their driving careers on hold for a while. As a result, this could harm their motor carrier’s safety rating. However, this is better than causing accidents and getting a lawsuit from a truck accident lawyer.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the US Department of Transportation, is solely in charge of regulating the trucking sector and establishing hours of service while maintaining the flow of goods.

The main goal of the HOS is to stop accidents brought on by driving fatigue. The number of driving hours per day, as well as the combined number of driving and working hours per week, are restricted to achieve this. 

Committing hours of service violations can damage the truck and cause some serious accidents. However, with the help of truck accident lawyers, victims of truck accidents can file a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury lawyer office can help you prove that the truck accident was as a result of hours of service violations.

By contacting a law firm with experienced truck accident lawyers, you can file a claim for damages. The truck accident lawyers can win your personal injury lawsuit and get the full settlement you deserve.

A logbook is used by the CMV driver to record drivers working hours, detailing how many hours they spent driving, how many hours they spent sleeping, and when their duty status changed.

Alternatively, Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) automatically record the amount of time spent driving the vehicle. This may be used by a motor carrier in place of a log book to keep track of a driver’s hours.

Trucking Hours of Service Rules

1. 11/10-Hours of Driving 

Commercial truck drivers who transport property are permitted to drive for up to 11 hours after 10 straight hours off during a 14-hour period. The maximum amount of time a truck driver can spend behind the wheel after eight hours off duty is 10 hours.

The FMCSA offers the following illustration of the 11-hour rule: You’ve had ten hours off straight. You arrive at work at 6 a.m., and from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., you drive (seven hours of driving). 

After taking the necessary 30-minute break, you can continue driving for a further four hours until 6:30 p.m. 

You must wait at least 10 hours without working before getting behind the wheel again. After 6:30 p.m., you may perform other tasks, but you may not operate a commercial motor vehicle on a public road.

2. 14/15-Hours Maximum

Commercial truck drivers who transport property are not permitted to drive for more than 14 hours straight after starting their shift. Before driving again, the driver must take a break from duty for ten hours straight. 

There is a 15-hour cap on the total number of hours a driver can drive while transporting passengers. The 14-hour/15-hour duty period cannot be extended by drivers using the off-duty time (e.g., breaks, meals, or fuel stops).

3. 30-Minute Driving Break 

When you have driven for a total of 8 hours without at least one 30-minute break, you are required to take a 30-minute break. 

Any 30-minute stretch during which you don’t operate a vehicle will suffice as a driving break (i.e., on-duty not driving, off-duty, sleeping break, or any combination of these taken consecutively).

4. The 60/70 Hours Limit

Commercial truck drivers who don’t operate their vehicles every day of the week are not permitted to operate them after 60 hours of work in a row. 

They are not permitted to drive if they work seven days a week and have worked 70 hours in total. In either scenario, the driver may begin the seven- or eight-day window after spending 34 or more hours off the job in a row.

5. Provision for Sleeper Berth

Drivers are permitted to divide their required 10-hour off-duty period into two separate periods as long as one off-duty period (in or out of the sleeper berth) is at least two hours long. The other off-duty period involves at least seven straight hours spent in the sleeper berth. 

Every pair of sleeper berths MUST be at least 10 hours. Neither time period affects the allotted 14-hour driving window when used in tandem.

6. Adverse Driving Conditions

When dangerous driving conditions are present, drivers are permitted to extend the 11-hour maximum driving time limit and the 14-hour driving window by up to 2 hours.

7. Exception for Short-Haul

This exemption is intended to govern the HOS of short-haul drivers who travel shorter distances and for shorter periods.

The short-haul exemption specifies how some fleet companies may be excluded from using ELDs to track the activities of their drivers. Furthermore, drivers who use the ELD timecard exemption are not obligated to keep duty status records.

To qualify for this exemption, truck drivers must drive no more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period and take a 30-minute break after every eight hours. You must also drive within a 150-air-mile radius of your starting point.

In addition, you are required to have at least 10 hours off duty before beginning your next driving shift. And you must return to the starting point of your journey every day.

Hours of Service Rules Modification Over the Years

The first HOS guidelines were put into effect in 1938 by the now-defunct Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). The maximum amount of time that drivers could work in a day was 12 hours.

When the Interstate Commerce Commission first published its driver regulations in 1937, they allowed 10 hours of driving time, 8 hours of rest time, 60/70 hours in 7/8 days, and the ability to divide the sleeper berth time into two periods.

The laws appear to be subject to debate constantly and have undergone significant change in recent years. Let’s look into these changes:

  • In 1963, following a rule change, drivers were able to divide their eight hours of unscheduled time into two blocks of four hours each. 
  • In 1996, the office of motor carriers within the Federal Highway Administration (the forerunner of the FMCSA), was mandated by the 1995 ICC Termination Act to address fatigue-related motor carrier safety issues. The agency announced its intention to make significant changes to the rules in 1996.
  • In 2003, FMCSA released a final rule that differed significantly from its original proposal. Driving time was increased to 11 hours, but the window for driving was reduced to 14 hours without breaks. The result was a 24-hour day that was more in line with the circadian rhythm. This is as a result of the required amount of off-duty time being increased to 10 hours. A contentious 34-hour restart was also added, and the regulations were planned to take effect in January 2004.
  • In 2005, the agency made changes to the sleeper berth and short-haul provisions while also addressing the driver health issue. Drivers using sleeper berths had to stay in the berth for eight consecutive hours and then spend an additional 2 hours either off duty or in the berth. This additional 2 hours had to be taken into account when calculating the 14-hour driving window.
  • In 2007, the D.C. Circuit ruled in Public Citizen’s favor once more and nullified the provisions requiring a 34-hour restart and an 11-hour driving time. FMCSA did not adequately disclose the changes it had formed to the 2003 operator-fatigue concept. This is because that model did not take into consideration the cumulative fatigue caused by longer weekly driving and working hours. The court concluded that FMCSA had violated the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.
  • In 2009, FMCSA promised to publish a new final rule by July 26, 2011. However, this was later delayed until October 2011. Public Citizen and its allies agreed to suspend their lawsuit against the rules while FMCSA revised them. “Grave concern” was expressed by ATA as well.
  • In 2010, FMCSA suggested maintaining the 11-hour limit, though it did state it would consider lowering it to 10 hours. Additionally, it suggested that the 34-hour restart can only be used once a week and include two periods from midnight to six in the morning.
  • In 2011, on the ATA’s insistence, Congress mandated that FMCSA carry out a 34-hour restart field study.
  • In 2013, the D.C. Circuit overturned the 30-minute break rule for short-haul drivers but upheld the 2011 regulation in all other aspects.
  • In 2014, a field test of the 34-hour restart rule, which requires drivers to take two consecutive breaks between 1 and 5 in the morning, revealed that it is more effective than the previous regulation at preventing driver fatigue. ATA, which requested the study, objected to the findings.
  • In 2015, the publication of the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate was introduced. It was demanded by safety groups in their opposition to previous HOS regulations.
  • In 2017, the 2011 34-hour restart requirements were suspended by Congress. It mandated a study of the new rule’s effectiveness while also temporarily restoring the pre-2011 restart rule.
  • The automatic onboard recording (AOR) devices that fleets use to track driver hours of service are grandfathered in for two years after the ELD rule takes effect in late 2017.
  • In 2019, FMCSA released a notice that expanded the local exemption and added flexibility for the 30-minute rest period. This would allow drivers to work longer shifts than the previously rigid 14-hour on-duty window.
  • In 2020, the proposed rule was largely replicated in the final rule, but the initial proposal to allow drivers to “pause” the 14-hour clock was removed. 

NOTE: The above listed is merely a summary of the various HOS modifications over time. More information is available here.

How Do Truck Accident Lawyers Help?

A truck accident lawyer assists victims in establishing personal injury cases and pursuing damages from at-fault truck drivers.

If you were injured in an accident but weren’t at fault, a truck accident attorney can help you develop your case and swiftly file for compensation. It’s easier to file a charge for compensation if the truck driver is found guilty of hours of service violations.

A truck accident attorney’s primary objective is to secure financial compensation for your expenses, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Vehicle replacement or repair
  • Lost income
  • Permanent impairment
  • Distress and suffering
  • Loss of group support

Summary 

Truck drivers must comprehend the Hours of Service regulations. However, some drivers will continue to break the HOS regulations for different reasons. So, get in touch with a law firm with experienced truck accident lawyers if you ever get into a collision with a truck.

We hope you found this blog post on 7 Rules on Trucking Hours of Service useful. Be sure to check out our post on How Transportation Has Upgraded Over the Years for more great information!


7 Rules on Trucking Hours of Service

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