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Hours of service regulations govern the working hours of anyone operating a commercial motor vehicle(CMV) in the United States. They limit the number of daily and weekly hours spent driving and working and regulate the minimum amount of hours drivers must spend resting between their driving shifts. As a driver of a CMV, you are required to keep a record of working hours using a logbook or an Electronic Logging Device(ELD). The main purpose of the hours of service regulations is to prevent accidents caused by fatigue. You are required to take a daily minimum period of rest, and longer rest periods after a weekly limit of hours has been reached. Your HOS can be checked at weighing stations, and if you are in violation of the HOS you could be forced to stop driving for a certain period of time.

So let’s go over some important need-to-know facts, rules and exceptions about the HOS.

The 14-hour limit and 11-hour driving limit rules

The first rule is the 14-hour limit rule. This rule limits the working time for a driver to 14 consecutive hours, after coming on duty. This rule is followed by the 11-hour driving limit rule. This means that a driver can drive for 11 consecutive hours, then get in another 3 maximum hours of non-driving work duties, before they are required to rest for 10 consecutive hours off-duty. The non-driving duties include loading and unloading cargo, required vehicle inspections, fueling the vehicle, and non-working duties such as meals and breaks. Drivers are allowed to extend the 11-hour maximum driving limit and the 14-hour driving window by up to 2 hours when adverse driving conditions are encountered.

The 30 minute break rule

This rule requires drivers to take a 30-minute break when they have driven for 8 cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption. This break can be satisfied while doing any other non-driving duties. It can be logged in as on-duty not driving, off-duty, sleeper berth or any combination of these taken consecutively.

The 60 or 70 hour limit rule

This rule states that a driver may not drive after 60 hours in 7 consecutive days, if a carrier does not operate every day of the week, or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days, for carriers that operate every day of the week. A driver may restart the 7 or 8 consecutive day period after taking 34 hours, or more, off-duty. This is known as the “34-hour restart”.

Sleeper Berth rule

Drivers can use the time spent in the sleeper berth to count towards their mandatory rest time or their off-duty time. Drivers who choose to use a split sleeper berth must take at least 8 hours in the sleeper berth, and they may split the sleeper berth time into two periods. This can be done only provided neither period is less than two hours. One shift must be between 2 and 8 hours and can be spent in the sleeper berth, off-duty or personal conveyance. The other shift has to be between 8 and 10 hours and it can only be taken in the sleeper berth. These two breaks can be taken in any order, and by completing both of them, the 14-hour limit is restarted. However this is not a full 10-hour reset, it just moves the start time of the 14-hour driving window.

Rule exceptions

-Short-haul exception

Property-carrying commercial drivers can extend their 14-hour driving window to 16-hours once every 7 consecutive days if they qualify for this short-haul exception. The requirements are met if the driver has returned to his normal work-reporting location for the previous five duty tours the driver has worked; The driver has returned to his normal work-reporting location and the carrier releases the driver after 16 hours after coming on duty, followed by 10 consecutive hours off duty; The driver has not taken this exemption in the past 6 consecutive days.

-Adverse conditions

The FMCSA defines adverse driving conditions as snow, sleet or fog, a highway covered in snow or ice, or unusual road and traffic conditions.

As we mentioned before, the 11-hour driving limit and the 14-hour driving window limit can be extended by up to 2 hours under adverse driving conditions if:

-the conditions could not be known before the driving started

-the driver could not predict the adverse driving conditions through common sense or trip planning.

-Emergency conditions

Some or all HOS rules can be temporarily lifted in case of emergency conditions. For this exemption to be valid, a federal or state institution must declare and acknowledge the state of emergency.

Electronic Logging Device

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the hours of service, and since 2017 the ELD mandate became effective. This mandate requires drivers to have an FMCSA-compliant Electronic Logging Device installed, which, then, automatically records drive times. Before this, drivers used to record their Hours of Service into a logbook, on paper, by hand. The ELD requires drivers to be more compliant with the HOS since the drive times are automatically recorded.

After the implementation of the ELD mandate, the manufacturers, FMCSA, industry stakeholders, and drivers were able to identify areas of improvement in the Hours of Service, and the FMCSA continues to consider the proposals to keep progressing and improving the industry. The Hours of Service is there to provide safety on the roads. Commercial Drivers have a big role in today’s society, and a big impact on road safety, so following the rules of the HOS plays a big role in preventing fatigue-related accidents. Driving long hours requires to be followed up with enough rest. So stay rested, healthy, and safe.