Hours of service (HOS) sets rules and regulations for the maximum amount of time that a commercial truck driver can be on duty. Failing to adhere to these requirements could mean job loss, fines, or penalties.
Learn more about who HOS applies to, the specific regulations for stops and breaks, HOS enforcement, and more.
Hours of Service Explained
HOS stands for hours of service. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversees these rules. Here’s a look at some of the must-know rules for HOS.
- HOS rules do not apply to short-haul scenarios that remain within a 150-air-mile radius of the terminal of origination. In short-haul cases, drivers can complete up to a 14-hour shift.
- When the driver encounters adverse driving conditions, the driving window can be expanded up to an additional 2 hours.
- Commercial vehicle drivers must take at least a 30-minute break after 8 cumulative hours of driving time. This break can be an on-duty, non-driving break.
- The driver must spend a minimum of 10 hours off duty with at least 7 of those hours being in the sleeper berth after every 14-hour driving window.
FMSCA oversees hours of service rules due to high accident rates among commercial drivers who spend too much time behind the wheel and not enough time resting. The goal is to keep all motorists safe while still allowing goods to move through the supply chain efficiently.
How Does HOS Work?
DOT hours of service is a nationwide program that ensures compliance with safety guidelines to keep commercial drivers from exhaustion and prevent the risk of falling asleep at the wheel. Learn more about who HOS rules apply to and how they are enforced.
Who Does HOS Regulations Apply To?
FMCSA outlines 5 criteria for who HOS rules apply. You do not have to meet all requirements. If you meet just one, HOS rules apply to you as a commercial driver.
- The vehicle weighs 10,001 pounds or more.
- The gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating is 10,001 pounds or more.
- The vehicle is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers for non-compensation use. This figure includes the driver.
- The vehicle is designed to transport 9 or more passengers for compensation. This figure includes the driver.
- The vehicle transports hazardous materials requiring a placard.
Who Enforces HOS in the U.S.?
FMCSA enforces HOS in the U.S. using a nationwide program called Compliance Safety and Accountability (CSA). CSA is a compliance program that reviews adherence to all safety regulations, including HOS. Drivers get scored on their compliance and aspects of those scores are public so that hiring managers or shippers can view them.
Failing to adhere to HOS rules could lead to a written warning, fines, investigation and even termination of a driver’s commercial driving license.
Can You Go off Duty While Loading?
Whether you’re off duty during loading depends on your activities during this time. If you’re required to be in the driver’s seat and at the controls to assist with loading, this is considered driving time. However, if you are seated at the vehicle’s controls and not required to use auxiliary functions of the vehicle at that time, the hours can be counted as on-duty not driving time under FMCSA Section 395.2.
What Is a 34-Hour Reset?
Drivers approaching their 60-hour limitation for seven days of work or 70-hour limitation for eight days of work can reset and get back to work quickly by taking 34-hours off consecutively. These hours can be taken in the sleeper berth, off duty, or a combination of the two statuses.
What Are the Hours of Service for a Local Truck Driver?
Local truck drivers are defined as traveling no more than a 150-air-mile radius from their starting location. These drivers must not drive more than 11 hours within a 14-hour period. Additionally, drivers must still take a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving. If local truck drivers encounter adverse weather events or road conditions, the period is extended to 16 hours.
Important HOS Rules
Before you begin the life of a truck driver, you should take time to review the HOS rules. Here’s an overview of some of the most important provisions outlined in the FMCSA HOS regulations.
Electronic logging devices (ELDs) make tracking HOS simple and reduce the errors and omissions that drivers could make using paper log sheets. All trucks made after 2000 must be equipped with an ELD as of December 18, 2017.
ELDs seamlessly track when a vehicle is on or in motion. Drivers can update their status in the app and track compliance with driving limits. Many ELDs will also alert carriers and employers when drivers are approaching their maximum HOS. That way, carriers will have to make alternate arrangements for transporting goods and meeting delivery deadlines.
A sleeper berth is equipped with a compliant mattress and sleeping arrangement in the cab area of a commercial truck. FMCSA 49 CFR 393.76 outlines the full regulations and definition of a sleeper berth.
Every 14 hours of service, a driver must spend a total of 10 hours off duty with at least 7 of those hours being in the sleeper berth. Failing to meet this regulation could lead to fines and penalties.
A commercial driver carrying property cannot be on duty for more than 14 consecutive hours. The driver can only be working for a total of 11 hours’ worth of driving time without a 10-hour consecutive period off duty. Each 10-hour off-duty period resets the 14-hour limit.
A commercial driver carrying passengers cannot be on duty for more than 15 hours. They can drive for a total of 10 hours without an 8-hour consecutive period of off-duty time. Each 8-hour off-duty period resets the 15-hour limit. Read more about FMCSA hours of service regulations and daily limits.
Failing to follow the hours of service regulations could lead to the following penalties:
- A written warning
- Termination of a driver’s commercial driving license and privileges
U.S. HOS vs Canada HOS
Canada HOS is broken into two regions: South of 60 and North of 60. The southern regulations state that a driver has a 16-hour window to drive 13 hours before a mandatory 8-hour break consecutively. In Canada north, drivers have a 20-hour window to drive a maximum of 15 hours before an 8-hour-consecutive break.
Similar to the U.S. and its HOS terms, Canada also has hour limits for 7-day work periods. In Canada south, a driver cannot drive more than 70 hours in a 7-day period, and in Canada north, a driver cannot drive more than 80 hours in a 7-day work period.
Both regions have a 36-hour off-duty requirement pertaining to consecutive hours in order to reset the 7-day work periods. One big difference between the U.S. HOS vs Canada HOS is that in Canada, drivers do not have break requirements.
When driving across the border, drivers must adhere to each country’s requirements. Driving from the U.S. to Canada offers slightly more flexibility since the permissible daily driving hours are greater in Canada than in the U.S.
Ensuring HOS Compliance
Modern ELD technology has made it simpler to track HOS compliance and avoid costly fines and potential loss of a commercial license. Learning the full HOS requirements and regulations is an essential step in preparing for a career in trucking.
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