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What are Hours of Service (HOS) for Truck Drivers
Hours of service are rules that limit the maximum amount of time truck drivers can be on duty and operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) such as a semi truck.
The purpose of these regulations is to reduce the likelihood of accidents caused by driver fatigue. They are set by the FMCSA.
Understanding these rules is imperative for both truck drivers and trucking companies, and failing to adhere to them can lead to severe penalties.
Learn about Adverse Driving Conditions here.
Hours of Service Rules for Truck Drivers
11-Hour Driving Limit
After 10 consecutive hours off duty, a truck driver is allowed to drive for up to 11 total hours.
Once a truck driver starts their day, they have a 14-hour window in which they can drive up to 11 hours. After this window, the driver must be off duty for 10 consecutive hours.
If a driver wants to drive after 8 hours of being on duty (even if they haven’t been driving the whole time), they must take a 30-minute break. This break can be off-duty, in the sleeper berth, or a combination of the two.
Drivers can’t drive after they’ve been on duty for 70 hours in an 8-day period. They can reset this 70-hour clock by taking 34 consecutive hours off duty.
Sleeper Berth Provision
Drivers can split their required 10-hour off-duty period into two shifts: one lasting at least 7 hours in the sleeper berth and another break of at least 2 hours, either off-duty or in the sleeper berth. This allows for flexibility but still ensures the driver gets adequate rest.
Learn about ELD Status here.
Recording HOS – The ELD Rule
The FMCSA mandates the use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) to record HOS for most drivers. ELDs replace paper logbooks and make it easier to accurately track, manage, and share data, improving compliance with HOS rules.
HOS Violations & Penalties
Violations of HOS rules can lead to severe penalties for both drivers and carriers. Drivers may be placed out of service (shut down) at the roadside until the driver has accumulated enough off-duty time to be back in compliance.
Additionally, both drivers and carriers can face fines, and repeated violations can result in a carrier’s safety rating being downgraded.
If the driver operates past his 14 hours on duty, he can be fined $7320 on average.
Recordkeeping HOS violations are fined $1270 per day up to $12,690.
Standard Rule: As mentioned earlier, certain short-haul drivers are exempt from keeping a Record of Duty Status (RODS) if they operate within a 100 air-mile radius for CDL drivers or a 150 air-mile radius for non-CDL drivers, return to the work reporting location at the end of the day, and meet other criteria.
Adverse Driving Conditions
Standard Rule: If unexpected adverse driving conditions arise (like sudden snowfall), drivers can extend the 11-hour maximum driving limit by up to 2 hours. However, the 14-hour driving window cannot be extended.
16-Hour Short-Haul Exemption
Standard Rule: Occasionally, drivers can extend the 14-hour driving window to 16 hours. This is allowed once every 7 consecutive days if the driver returns to their work reporting location and is released from duty within 16 hours after coming on duty.
Split Sleeper Berth
Standard Rule: Instead of taking a full 10-hour off-duty rest break, drivers with sleeper berths in their vehicles can split their sleep time. For instance, they might split it into two periods: one of at least 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and another of at least 2 consecutive hours either off-duty, in the sleeper berth, or a combination of the two.
Standard Rule: During planting and harvesting seasons, as designated by each state, certain agricultural drivers are exempt from the HOS regulations when transporting agricultural commodities within a 150 air-mile radius from the source of the commodities.
30-Minute Break Exemption
Standard Rule: Certain drive-away/tow-away operations and drivers who qualify for the short-haul exceptions are not required to take the 30-minute break after 8 hours of on-duty time.
Standard Rule: Special “waiting time” exceptions apply to drivers of vehicles used exclusively in the transportation of oilfield equipment, including the servicing of the oilfield industry. This “waiting time” at a natural gas or oil well site is not considered part of the 14-hour workday and can be excluded from on-duty time.
Standard Rule: In cases of emergencies, as declared by local, state, or federal governing entities, the HOS regulations can be temporarily lifted.
Groundwater Well Drilling Rigs
Standard Rule: Drivers of groundwater well drilling rigs are not required to log their waiting time at a natural gas or oil well site as on-duty time.
Standard Rule: Some states have variances from federal HOS regulations, particularly concerning intrastate commerce (commerce that occurs solely within a state’s boundaries).
The Impact of Fatigue on Driving Performance
Driver fatigue can have severe consequences on driving performance, such as:
- Reduced reaction time: Fatigue slows down a driver’s reaction time, making it harder to respond quickly to sudden changes in traffic conditions or unexpected hazards.
- Impaired decision-making: Fatigued drivers may have difficulty making sound judgments, leading to risky behaviors and increased chances of accidents.
- Decreased attention and concentration: Fatigue can make it challenging to stay focused on the road, leading to inattention and a higher likelihood of missing critical information.
- Increased irritability and mood swings: Tired drivers may be more prone to frustration and aggression, which can negatively impact their interactions with other drivers and overall driving performance.
Strategies for Effective Fatigue Management
To minimize the risk of fatigue-related accidents, truck drivers and companies can implement the following fatigue management strategies:
- Prioritize proper rest: Encourage drivers to take full advantage of their off-duty time to rest and sleep, ensuring they are well-rested before getting behind the wheel.
- Develop a fatigue management plan: Trucking companies can create a comprehensive plan that includes education on fatigue, guidelines for managing work schedules, and resources for drivers to help them manage fatigue effectively.
- Encourage power naps: Short naps of 20-30 minutes during breaks can help drivers refresh their energy levels and maintain alertness on the road.
- Promote healthy habits: Encourage drivers to maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and establish a consistent sleep schedule to improve overall health and sleep quality.
- Monitor drivers schedules: Companies can use electronic logging devices (ELDs) and other tools to track drivers’ hours of service and ensure compliance with HOS regulations.
- Foster open communication: Create a supportive environment where drivers feel comfortable discussing fatigue concerns and seeking assistance when necessary.
It is essential for both drivers and trucking companies to understand and comply with these regulations to maintain safety on the roads and avoid penalties and fines.
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