Hours-of-Service Regulations—Everything a Trucker Should Know

Phil Cohen

In the past couple of years, there has been an unprecedented level of legal change within the trucking industry in the United States. The industry’s regulatory bodies have shaken up how trucker’s conduct their daily business with the passage of MAP-21, the ELD mandate and more.

Accordingly, we thought it important to throw together a guide of one of the industry’s most principal set of rules—the DOT hours-of-service regulations. Below, you’ll find an easy-to-follow breakdown of the rules.

The U.S. Hours of Service Regulations

The U.S. hours-of-service regulations are lengthy and dense. It can be difficult to pinpoint one simple, comprehensive source online that gives the regulations a proper introduction and a concise summary of its elements.

What are Hours-of-service Regulations?

Hours-of-service regulations are a set of rules set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) by which commercial vehicle operators must abide.

The goal of FMCSA hours-of-service regulations is to keep fatigued truckers off of public roadways, increasing highway safety. Fatigued truckers can be dangerous truckers, and when 18-wheelers crash, they typically pose a significant threat to other motorists. In fact, there were over 5,600 deaths related to truck accidents in 2021.

What Types of Truckers Must Follow hours-of-service Regulations?

According to the FMCSA, you must follow the hours-of-service regulations if you are engaged in interstate commerce and:

  • Your truck weighs more than 10,000 lbs.,
  • The truck has a gross vehicle weight rating/gross combination weight rating of more than 10,000 lbs., or
  • Your truck is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity that requires placards.

There are a few exceptions to these rules. Contact the FMCSA if you feel that you qualify for a certain exemption to the hours-of-service laws.

So What Are the Regulations?

There are three maximum duty limits that credentialed drivers have to follow: the 14-hour rule, the 11-hour rule and the 60/70-hour rules. Each of them is outlined below.

14-hour driving window

While it is not based upon a 24-hour period, this is commonly known as the “daily driving limit.” This rule allows drivers “14 consecutive hours in which to drive up to 11 hours after being off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours.” Essentially, this means that when you start your day, assuming you have taken 10 hours off, you have 14 hours to log 11 total hours of driving. For example: if you start work at 8 a.m., you would have until 10 p.m. to drive for a total of 11 hours with the appropriate breaks.

11-hour driving limit

Within your 14-hour window, you can only operate your truck for a total of 11 hours. Once you drive for a total of 11 hours during your 14-hour window, you must be off duty for another 10 hours.   

Thirty-minute rest break

Drivers may not drive for more than 8 consecutive hours without a thirty-minute rest period. For example: if you come to work and drive for 8 straight hours, you must take a 30-minute break before completing the final 3 hours that you are given under the 11-hour driving limit.

60/70-Hour Duty Limit

If the 14-hour window is a “daily limit,” then this rule can be considered a “weekly limit.” The commercial driver hours-of-service regulations prohibit being on duty for more than 60 hours during any period of 7 consecutive days, or more than 70 hours in any 8 consecutive days.

The federal government defines “on-duty time” as all-time spent

  • At a facility/property of a shipper/carrier or any public property awaiting dispatch;
  • Inspecting, servicing, prepping, washing and fueling any truck at any time;
  • Driving;
  • Inside or on a commercial vehicle (unless resting in a sleeper birth);
  • Loading and unloading a truck and completing paperwork;
  • Repairing a broken-down truck;
  • Being drug tested;
  • Doing any other miscellaneous job for a motor carrier, and;
  • Working another job, whether paid or unpaid.

34-Hour Restart

In order to restart your 60 or 70-hour “weekly limit,” you have to take 34+ consecutive hours of off duty time.

Exceptions

There are dozens of exceptions to the preceding hours-of-service rules. Perhaps the most common exception is the adverse driving conditions exception. This exemption allots an extra two hours driving time if snow, rain, fog, traffic, etc. delays your journey. For a complete table of exceptions, visit the FMCSA website and consult the specific industry-related regulations.

Sleeper-Berth Provisions

You may record some or all of your 10 mandatory off-duty hours inside your sleeper berth. Also, if you spend at least 8 consecutive hours in your sleeper birth, you can extend your 14-hour window. Take the following example:

  • If you come to work at 6 a.m., drive until noon (using 6 of your hours) and sleep/spend 8 consecutive hours in your sleeper berth, those 8 hours don’t count against your 14-hour window. Instead of your window ending at 8 p.m., as it would have had you never stopped, your window is extended another 8 hours because of your time in the sleeper birth, thereby giving you until 4 a.m.

Recording Your Hours-of-Service

So, now that you understand the rules and regulations behind CDL hours-of-service laws, you may be wondering, “how do I prove that I am playing by the rules?”

The controversial ELD mandate forbids commercial drivers from operating without an electronic logging device, rendering the old-fashioned daily grids obsolete. Truckers have many options when it comes to obtaining a federally approved ELD, and it is recommended that they familiarize themselves with the electronic systems promptly.

Hours-of-service laws may seem a bit complex at first, but truckers typically get the hang of them quickly. While they do burden truckers and small trucking companies, they ensure that truck drivers stay off the road when the fatigue sets in. Such measures are essential in keeping the American motorways—and its truckers—safe.

Are you looking for a financial safety net to protect your cash flow as you grow your small trucking company? If so, contact the financial experts at Factor Finders. We have helped countless trucking companies and owner-operators choose the best trucking factor and access debt-free sources of working capital. The application is quick and easy. Once approved, you can get paid for your invoices in hours.

Give us a call or request a free quote.

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Phil Cohen

Phil is the owner of PRN Funding and sister company Factor Finders. He has been an authority in the factoring industry for over 20 years, serving on the board of directors for several factoring associations.

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