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Truck Driver’s Ultimate Handbook: Understanding DOT Hours of Service (HOS) Rules

The Department of Transportation (DOT) implements Hours of Service (HOS) rules to govern the duty cycles of drivers, specifying allowable driving durations and mandatory rest periods. These essential rules, designed to ensure the safety of truck drivers, require compliance with set driving times and duty statuses through Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), as mandated by the DOT.

“Hours of Service” rules define the permissible on-duty time for drivers. These rules are outlined and specified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a branch within the DOT. These are constantly updated to align with current operational requirements.

Staying informed about the latest DOT regulations is crucial for individual drivers and fleet operators. The FMCSA provides online learning tools focused on HOS rules to ensure that commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers in the United States know about them and can comply with these regulations.

What are DOT Hours of Service?

HOS rules, regulated by the DOT, are vital for ensuring the safety of drivers by stipulating compliance with specified on and off-duty hours. According to the FMCSA, drivers are required, with limited exceptions, to use ELDs. They must accurately log their active working and resting hours.

Purpose of HOS

The primary objective of the HOS rules set by the FMCSA is to enhance the safety of truck drivers on the road. There are mandatory breaks between driving shifts to prevent accidents caused by fatigue. Based on DOT estimates, fatigue among truck drivers contributes to over 8,000 truck-related incidents annually. 

Furthermore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that each year, around two million people get injured in motor accidents, with approximately 65% of these accidents happening during extended trips. Compliance with HOS rules is instrumental in mitigating these alarming statistics.

Truck drivers rely on ELDs to adhere to HOS rules. These devices, installed in trucks, automatically record driver and fleet operations data, ensuring drivers take necessary rests for safety reasons.

Do Hours of Service Rules Apply to Me?

Generally, all carriers and commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers must adhere to the FMCSA’s and DOT’s HOS rules. This requirement applies to both property-carrying and passenger-carrying drivers. US drivers, as well as drivers from neighboring countries of Canada and Mexico, must also follow these rules.

If any of the following are true, the rules will apply:

– The vehicle’s weight is more than 10,000 pounds.

– The vehicle can carry at least sixteen people.

– The vehicle can carry hazardous material requiring a placard.

– The vehicle can carry nine or more passengers, including the driver, for compensation.

Familiarity with the FMCSA rules is crucial due to the significant concern and risk posed by driver fatigue, affecting the drivers and the public. The mandated breaks, as outlined by the HOS DOT, are essential measures in preventing accidents effectively.

When Do the Hours of Service Rules Apply to Me?

As mentioned above, the Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules apply if you are a driver engaged in interstate commerce transporting goods or services across state lines. Additionally, even if you are involved solely in intrastate commerce, you must adhere to HOS rules if you haul hazardous materials that require placards. Individual states might have their own HOS rules for other intrastate commerce, so it’s important to consult local regulations.

Interstate Commerce

Interstate commerce involves business transactions that take place across different states. If you are a driver participating in interstate commerce, either as an employee or an independent contractor, adherence to the Department of Transportation (DOT) Hours of Service (HOS) rules is mandatory.

Intrastate Commerce

In contrast, intrastate commerce pertains to business activities that are conducted entirely within a single state. Drivers who exclusively engage in intrastate commerce are not required to comply with the federal DOT HOS rules. However, it’s crucial to know that states may have specific regulations governing hour-of-service for intrastate commerce.

Exception for Hazardous Material (Hazmat) Drivers

Drivers that transport hazardous materials (which require placards) constitute a notable exception. Regardless of whether they are involved in interstate or intrastate commerce, Hazmat drivers must adhere to the DOT HOS rules and regulations. This crucial exception is in place to ensure safety during the transportation of hazardous materials.

HOS Rules – A Comprehensive Guide

If you want to understand the HOS rules and regulations in a summarized manner, read the below section thoroughly.

14-hour shift limit

The DOT Hours of Service rules restrict truck drivers from operating a vehicle for over 14 hours from the start of their shift unless they have rested for a minimum of 10 continuous hours. You are not allowed to resume driving again until you have taken another ten hours off, regardless of how little driving you may have done or what other tasks you may have finished in the 14 hours after your last ten-hour break. 

11-hour driving limit

You may use a motor vehicle for a total of 11 hours within your 14-hour shift restriction. However, it’s crucial to make sure you don’t drive for more than 11 hours straight before taking a ten-hour break.

60/70-hour rule

In addition to the daily limits, there are also limits on the total amount of time you can drive each week. If you have worked 60 hours in seven days with no breaks, you are not allowed to drive a vehicle. If you have been working regularly, you must stop driving after putting in 70 hours of work over eight days. Following a 34-hour break, this clock starts over.

The 34-hour restart gives you a stretch of uninterrupted time off to unwind and recharge. The weekly cap of 60/70 hours is reset after 34 straight hours off work. After the restart, you can resume driving.

Rest breaks

You must stop driving for thirty minutes after eight hours of nonstop operation. During this time, you are not required to change to an off-duty status, but you must stop operating a vehicle for at least 30 minutes.

Split sleeper berth rule

Initially, the split sleeper berth rule might seem confusing, but it serves an important purpose. It gives you more flexibility during your driving day, which is essential when dealing with loading dock delays or taking routes that get you to your destination after midnight.

You have the choice of splitting your required ten-hour off-duty period into two chunks: 8/2 or 7/3, thanks to the split sleeper berth rule.

In the 8/2 split, you are expected to use the sleeper berth for one segment that lasts 8 to 10 hours, while the other segment, which lasts 2 to 8 hours, is up to you as long as you don’t report for duty.

Similar is the 7/3 split, although it permits a sleeper berth time of up to seven hours. The other portion necessitates a minimum of three hours.

When one of these two split shifts is over, it changes the 14-hour clock. You are once again able to drive a car after your first rest shift is over. But when your second rest shift is over, the 14-hour clock starts over.

HOS Exemptions and Exceptions

The DOT Hours of Service rules have some exemptions and exceptions that require your attention:

The 30-Minute Break Exception

As per the DOT regulations, every eight hours, a 30-minute break is required for drivers. However, you are excused from this break requirement if you have a consecutive 30-minute non-driving period.

The 16-Hour Short-Haul Exception

Drivers who occasionally exceed their 14-hour shift limit and work 16 hours must meet the conditions given:

  • You began and ended your shift at the same location, it includes the day you requested for the exemption as well as the five workdays before that.
  • You finish your shift in the sixteenth hour after taking at least 10 hours off.
  • You’ve gone six days without using this exception (or within that time you’ve finished a 34-hour restart).

150 Air-Mile Exemption

Short-haul drivers are excused from logging daily hours under the 150 air-mile exemption if they satisfy the requirements listed below:

  • Your total distance from the start point should not be more than 150 air miles.
  • The start and end points should be at the same location.
  • Your work must be completed within 14 hours.
  • You need to take at least ten hours of rest or off-duty each day.

150 Air-Mile Non-CDL Short-Haul Exemption

The DOT Hours of Service Rules are different for short-haul drivers. If any of these are true, you don’t have to keep track of your hours:

  • You worked under 150 air miles from your work location.
  • The start and end points of the trip should be the same.
  • You did not operate vehicles that need CDL.
  • Also, you did not drive for more than 14 hours for five days or more consecutively. 
  • You should also avoid driving for at least two days in a row within seven days if your workday extends beyond 16 hours.

Adverse Driving Conditions Exemption

You have the choice to increase your daily shift limit and permitted driving time by two hours if you experience dangerous driving circumstances due to bad weather or other factors. To qualify, you must, however, fulfill certain requirements:

Before starting the trip, you were unaware of the dangerous driving conditions.

It was impossible to have planned the journey or used common sense to anticipate the circumstances.

Before the 2020 regulation revisions, you were allowed to extend your driving time, but not your total duty day, which is limited to 14 hours. This meant that you should have reached a secure area before your 14-hour duty day concluded.

Emergency Conditions

Certain or all hours of service rules for truck drivers may be temporarily relaxed when a state or federal governing authority declares a state of emergency. Instead of trucks operating unrelated businesses outside of the emergency-affected area, this usually applies to trucks that are directly impacted by the crisis or those traveling over state lines to provide aid.

It’s important to remember that each emergency can have different specifics. Refer to the most 

recent instructions about that scenario if an emergency has been declared.

How Do I Ensure HOS Compliance?

If the carrier, driver, or vehicle you work with meets the standards for an ELD exemption, you will still need to show that you follow DOT rules. Using an electronic logging device (ELD) or written logs, you have to keep track of your driving, on-duty, and off-duty hours.

You can try with a free Matrack ELD device, starting at $19.95/month. Your fleet can adhere to the hours-of-service guidelines and standards set forth by the FMCSA with the aid of Motive. 

  • Log your status using ELD.
  • Track your ON and OFF duty time.
  • Plan your trips.

Conclusion

The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Hours of Service (HOS) rules enhance driver safety by preventing fatigue-related accidents, thereby saving lives. According to these regulations, drivers use Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) to monitor their work and rest hours efficiently, ensuring their productivity and safety on the road. As a truck driver, you must adhere to these for your safety.