Understanding Hours-of-Service Regulations in trucking

Understanding Hours-of-Service Regulations in trucking

In the commercial vehicle operation industry, safety is the top priority. To protect drivers, passengers, and other individuals using the roads, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations have set forth the Hours-of-Service (HOS) guidelines, detailed in Part 395. The primary goal of these guidelines is to avoid having tired drivers on the streets, given the substantial danger that driver fatigue can introduce to overall road safety.

Who Must Comply with the Hours-of-Service Regulations?

Both motor carriers and drivers of commercial motor vehicles are subject to the Hours-of-Service regulations. These regulations apply to motor carriers involved in interstate commerce. Additionally, states may impose similar regulations for intrastate operations, meaning those involving goods and services that stay within a single state.

Definitions to Know

Before diving into the specific regulations, it’s essential to understand some key definitions used in the context of HOS:

  • Interstate: Refers to goods that have or will travel into or through another state or country, even if the truck remains within the original state.
  • Intrastate: Pertains to goods and services that remain within a single state.
  • On Duty Time: Includes all time a driver is working or required to be ready to work for any employer.
  • Off Duty Time: Comprises time when a driver is relieved of all duty and responsibility for performing work.
  • Adverse Driving Conditions: Refers to unexpected conditions that slow down the driver.
  • Driver’s Daily Log: A written or electronic record used to track a driver’s time spent driving, on-duty but not driving, in a sleeper berth, or off duty.

Maximum Duty Limits

HOS regulations set specific limits on the time a driver can spend driving a commercial motor vehicle and the total hours a driver can work before they are no longer allowed to drive. The three primary maximum duty limits are:

  • 14-hour duty limit: The driver cannot drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty.
  • 11-hour driving limit: A driver cannot drive more than 11 hours following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • 60/70-hour duty limit: Drivers must adhere to either the 60-hour rule in 7 days or the 70-hour rule in 8 days, depending on the motor carrier’s operating schedule.

34 Hour Restart

The regulations allow drivers to “restart” their 60 or 70-hour clock calculations after at least 34 consecutive hours off duty. This restart provides drivers with the full 60 or 70 hours of available driving time again. However, it’s important to note that the use of the 34-hour restart rule is optional and cannot be forced by the motor carrier.

Short Haul Exceptions

For certain operators driving short distances in vehicles not requiring a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), two short-haul exceptions may apply:

  • 150 Air Mile Driver: Drivers operating within a 150 air-mile radius of their normal work reporting location may use the non-CDL short-haul exception.
  • 16-hour Exception: This allows drivers to extend their 14-hour consecutive duty period once every 7 consecutive days if they return to the work reporting location and go home at the end of the workday.

Sleeper Berth Provisions

Drivers may use an approved sleeper berth to fulfill their required off-duty time or extend the 14-hour duty limit. The provisions for sleeper berth usage provide flexibility in managing rest breaks during the duty period.

Record Keeping and Out of Service

Drivers are required to maintain accurate and up-to-date records of their duty status using a Driver’s Daily Log. Failure to comply with HOS regulations can result in drivers being placed out of service, leading to fines for both the driver and the motor carrier.

In conclusion, Hours-of-Service regulations play a critical role in ensuring the safety of commercial motor vehicle operations. By adhering to these regulations and managing their time responsibly, drivers contribute to safer roads for everyone.

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