While the ELD mandate is a fairly new development in the trucking industry, hours of service (HOS) rules governing how long drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) can be on duty and driving on the road have been around since before World War II.
First implemented in 1937, HOS rules aim to increase safety for truckers and other road users while keeping freight moving. Over the decades, HOS rules have been changed multiple times; the most recent changes went into effect in September of 2020.
It’s crucial that carriers and drivers know and follow HOS rules to avoid violations in the event of an audit or roadside inspection. This article will provide an overview of HOS rules, including who they apply to, how they are documented and more.
Who Must Comply with Hours of Service Rules?
If you drive a CMV, you’re likely required to follow HOS rules. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency that sets HOS rules, defines a CMV as a vehicle that:
- Weighs 10,001 pounds or more.
- Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more.
- Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards.
- Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers not for compensation.
- Is designed or used to transport nine or more passengers for compensation.
These are the hours of service rules for drivers of property carrying CMVs:
- Shift/Drive Time Limits: A driver may drive up to 11 hours during a maximum 14-hour shift, and then must be off duty for 10 consecutive hours before beginning another shift.
- 30-Minute Break: After eight cumulative hours of driving, a driver must take a 30-minute break before getting behind the wheel again.
- Sleeper Berth Provision: A driver may split the 10-hour off-duty time as long as one off-duty period is at least two hours long and the other includes at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth. Combined, these periods must add up to at least 10 hours. The sleeper berth provision lets a driver extend their shift and the off-duty periods do not count against the 14-hour driving window.
- 60/70-Hour Limit: A driver cannot drive after being on duty for more than 60 hours over seven days or for 70 hours in an eight-day period. This limit is sometimes thought of as a “weekly” limit. However, this limit is not based on a “set” week, such as Sunday through Saturday. The limit is based on a “rolling” or “floating” 7-day or 8-day period.
- 34-Hour Restart: After being off duty for 34 hours or more, a driver’s weekly hours are reset.
Documenting HOS: Record of Duty Status
The FMCSA requires drivers to log their duty status – whether they’re driving or taking a break in the sleeper berth, for instance – throughout the course of their shift. This log is called the record of duty status (RODS).
Before the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, RODS were recorded on a paper grid. Now, however, RODS are created automatically via an ELD, ensuring more accurate records while removing a big administrative burden for drivers. In some cases, drivers may still use paper to record their duty status and there some instances in which drivers are exempt from using RODS altogether (though their HOS is still recorded on a timecard). But overwhelmingly, drivers are required to record their HOS on a RODS and do so using an ELD.
These are the duty status categories:
- Off Duty: The driver is not working and is relieved from all work-related responsibilities.
- Sleeper Berth (SB): The driver is resting in the sleeper berth.
- Driving: The driver is behind the wheel of a CMV and driving.
- On Duty (Not Driving): The driver is performing work activities other than driving.
- Off – PC (Personal Conveyance): The driver is using the truck for personal use.
- On- YM (Yard Moves): The driver is using the truck in a yard or other off-highway area.
Interstate vs. Intrastate
When it comes to HOS, it’s important to distinguish between interstate and intrastate commerce. The difference between the two seems simple: Interstate commerce relates to a load that is driven across state lines or international borders. Intrastate commerce, on the other hand, applies to goods that are moved solely within the boundaries of a single state.
But there is another aspect to be aware of: If a load originated in a different state or country or if it’s destined for another state or country, then it is interstate commerce – even if a driver never crosses a state or international border. And if that’s the case, interstate HOS established by the FMCSA apply. This is important to be mindful of because HOS rules can vary between those established by the FMCSA from those set by individual states.
HOS Exemptions and Exceptions
There are several exceptions and exemptions to the FMCSA’s hours of service rules. Many of them are specific to types of trucks, drivers or operations. Among the most common are:
- 16-hour exception: This exception allows drivers to extend their shift by two hours if they have returned to their work reporting location on the day they apply the exemption as well as their last five workdays and they haven’t used the exception for the previous six consecutive days.
- Adverse conditions exception: If a driver encounters unforeseen adverse conditions – including weather and road conditions – and cannot complete a run in 11 hours, they may drive an additional two hours to complete a run or get to safety.
- 30-minute rest break exemption: Drivers in some industries are exempt from the requirement to take a 30-minute break after eight hours of accumulated driving time. Among them are livestock haulers, fuel handlers, drivers hauling oversized and overweight loads, and drivers hauling ready-mix concrete.
- Short-haul exemption: Drivers are exempt from having to record their hours of service on a RODS if they begin and end their shift at the same location, are off duty within 14 hours of starting their shift, and if they stay within a 150-air mile radius from their start location. All these conditions must be met for a driver to use the short-haul exemption, and drivers must still record their shift on a timecard that includes start time, end time and total hours on duty.
With products like our dependable, durable and accurate ELD, our Clarity Dashcam and others, EROAD is committed to helping our customers run safe, efficient and successful operations while staying in compliance with FMCSA regulations. Contact us today to learn more about our fleet management solutions.
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Luke is a writer, editor and journalist with more than 15 years of experience. His goal is to provide valuable content that helps people understand complex concepts, solve problems and make informed decisions.