Last updated on March 8th, 2023 at 08:09 am
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Based on a report by the National Safety Council (NSC), about 100,000 accidents on American roads every year are a result of driver fatigue.
You can imagine the loss of lives and damage to property that such accidents cause. The question is, are the 18-wheeler truck drivers the ones to blame for those accidents? Unfortunately, only a few of such accidents involve 18-wheeler trucks.
However, a good number of truck drivers in the country are paid based on the number of miles they drive. There is also pressure from the employers in the time drivers deliver the load.
As such, truck drivers will eventually be tempted to drive past their point of exhaustion. Suppose such an exhausted driver falls asleep while driving.
To avoid such a scenario on American roads, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is trying to limit the number of hours a truck driver can drive in a day. Now, this is where the current hours of service rules come in.
So, what are those service hour rules are there any exceptions to those rules, and what will happen if you fail to comply with them?
Who Must Follow The Hours of Service Rule
Barring some exceptions, if you drive a commercial motor vehicle or CMV, you must follow the hours of service rule.
A CMV is a vehicle that is used as part of a business and is involved in interstate commerce and fits any of the following descriptions:
- Vehicle is 10,001 pounds or more
- Vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 10,001 pounds or more
- Vehicle is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
- Vehicle is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
- Vehicle is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards
The Current Hours of Service Rules & Regulations Governing Truck Drivers
When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) started limiting driving hours for truck drivers, drivers were allowed to drive for up to 16 hours. The hours of service regulations were put forwards by the government organization in light of the adverse driving conditions the driver put themselves in to meet the job requirements and expectations. THE HOS regulation specified a break rule for driver safety.
Due to increasing concerns for safety on the roads, this number was reduced to 14 and later on to 11 hours a day (13 active duty and 3 off-duty hours), with stipulations.
As time goes by, the FMCSA continues to evaluate and improve hours of service rules to ensure that the roads are safer for all users.
If the current FMCSA regulations on hours of service were complied with and drivers took time to rest, fatigue-related accidents would definitely drop in the United States.
Discussed below are the current rules by the FMCSA on truck drivers’ hours of service:
- 8 hours, 30-minute break. According to HOS regulations, Commercial truck drivers are required to take a break of at least 30 minutes after driving continuously for 8 hours.
- 8/2 split break. Property carrying drivers can get a maximum driving time of 11 hours in a day and only after being 10 consecutive hours off duty. With the 8/2 split, a truck driver may drive for 6 hours and then take a 2-hour off-duty break. After that, he can drive for another 5 hours. At that stage, an 8-hour off-duty period would start. When joined with the 2-hour off-duty break, it would satisfy the 10-hours off-duty requirement by the FMCSA. The break requirement is imposed to avoid fatigue-related incidents.
- 14-hour on-duty shift. To ensure better driving conditions HOS regulations require that a commercial truck driver should not be on duty for more than 14 hours of the work shift in a 24-hour timeframe. This is possible because you may not be driving the entire time; part of the duty period will be consumed by loading and offloading. Your driving time may not be more than 11 hours out of this period and only after being off duty for 10- hours. After your 14-hour period, you must spend 10 hours off-duty.
- the 10 hours can be split into 2-time blocks in either 8/2 or 7/3.
- 11-hour driving limit. As stated above, you can drive 11 hours out of a 14-hour shift, but only after 10-consecutive hours of duty and you must spend 10-consecutive hours of duty after completing 11 hours of driving time.
- 30-minute rest break. If you drive for 8 consecutive hours you must abide by a 30-minute break requirement before you can drive again.
- 70/8 rule. Also known as the 70-hour rule, if your company operates CMVs every day of the week they can assign you to the 70-hour rule. Commercial truck drivers cannot drive for more than 70 hours within an 8-day period (70-hour rule). Therefore, you can restart your 70-hour work period after every 8 days and only after spending at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. This is also known as the 34-hour reset.
- 60 in 7 rule. Also known as the 60-hour rule, if your company does not operate CMVs every day, they may assign you to the 60-hour rule. Truck drivers are not allowed to drive for more than 60 hours in a 7 day period. This rule requires a driver to restart his or her 60-hour period once a week and after spending 34 consecutive hours off-duty. Fleets can decide if they want to use the 70/8 rule or the 60 in 7 rule.
- 34 Hour Restart. This rule allows you to reset your 60 or 70-hour clock if you have taken a 34-consecutive-hour off-duty period. This 34-hour rule does allow for you to do off duty tasks such as loading and unloading or paperwork. The effect of the time zone in the United States is negligible in calculations of the above hours on duty and hours off duty. In all the HOS rules explained above, there is no adverse driving conditions exception.
Keeping Track of Hours
Drivers are required to keep track of their driving and resting time on a daily basis. A short-haul of 30 minutes break can help you stay active. Initially, this was done using either a daily logbook or an electronic on-board recorder (EOCR).
However, the ELD mandate as put forward by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) now requires drivers to use electronic logging devices to keep track of their hours of service and duty status every day.
Commercial property-carrying drivers using a sleeper berth provision are required to spend at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth provision after each duty time.
Additionally, service regulations require these drivers are to spend an additional 2 hours either off-duty, in the sleeper berth, or a combination of the two.
What Does On Duty Time Include
With few exceptions you are generally on duty all your driving time, waiting in a lot or yard to load or unload, waiting on a commercial property to be dispatched, performing any maintenance or upkeep on your vehicle, or you are providing a drug test, breathalyzer or similar in relation to your commercial driving job.
What is Travel Time
Travel time is when you are being transported to a location to start driving by your employer. This time does count towards your on-duty time unless you take a 10-consecutive-hour break. In that case, you may include your travel time, as long as you were not the one driving.
FMCSA Split Sleeper Berth Example
A driver begins his day at about 8 a.m. with 1 hour of being on-duty without driving. This commences the 14-hour clock and takes up just one hour of the time. At 9 a.m., the driver can begin driving until 2 p.m. The driver now used a total of 5 hours of the allowed 11-hour drive time. Also, he has used 6 hours of his overall 14-hour clock.
At this point, such a driver must take an 8-hour rest or break in the sleeper berth. While the driver is in the sleeper, he’s stopping the 14-hour clock. At 10 p.m., the driver starts driving again and has 6 hours allotted to drive time and 8 hours left of the 14-hour clock. The driver then continues his trip for another 6 hours, bringing him to 4 a.m., and goes on to off-duty status for 2 hours. As explained earlier, the combo of both rest periods is considered a 10-hour break in which the trucker may not drive.
We hope this clearly explains the sleeper berth vs off duty dilemma.
Exceptions to These Regulations
Some commercial truck drivers may not know this, but there are several driving conditions exception to the hours of service regulations. Notably, there is a sleeper berth exception as explained above. To read more about the exceptions and new hours of service rules please refer to the FMCSA website.
Mentioned below are the exceptions to these rules that you need to know:
- Commercial truck drivers may exceed the 11-hour driving time limit during inclement weather conditions. In such a case, the driver is only allowed to exceed the 11-hour maximum by up to 2 hours.
- Drivers for retail stores who normally travel less than a 100-mile radius will be allowed to exceed the 11 hours maximum between December 10 and December 25. This is to allow such drivers to make delivery demands for the festive season.
- Truck drivers who only travel within a 100-mile radius from their place of work are not required to keep a log of their working hours.
- Drivers within Hawaii may not keep hours of service logbooks. This is because their employers are required to provide the total number of hours per day for each driver along with start and end times for the employees.
- Commercial truck drivers in Alaska are allowed to drive for up to 15 hours and spend 10 hours consecutively off-duty. This is because of the size of this state.
This is when the driver is using the vehicle during his off time, maybe for personal transportation. This period should not be logged as hours of driving; it is considered to be off time.
However, the ELD mandate regulations require the driver to be visible on the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) during personal conveyance.
The driver should not be carrying out work-related chores, such as taking the vehicle for the maintenance of fueling; during personal conveyance.
Personal conveyance exception may only be used in certain circumstances, including:
- Driving the vehicle from en route lodgings to restaurants
- Driving to the nearest parking space when you unexpectedly run out of time after a delay at a receiver or shipper
- Commuting between your home and your work reporting station
- Driving to a safe parking spot after a police officer asked you to move the vehicle.
This is another special exception status that was recently introduced by the ELD mandate. The main idea behind this status is that driving on a limited-access yard or lot can be carried out on Duty Status instead of Driving status.
However, the rules on when and how to use the Yard Moves status are not yet clear.
Non-CDL Short-Haul Exception
Who qualifies for the Non-CDL short-haul exception?
If you drive a non-CDL required commercial motor vehicle and live within 150 miles of your normal work reporting location and return home every day.
What is the exception for Non-CDL short-haul operators?
If you qualify for this exception, you can extend the 14 hours driving window to 16 hours for 2 days out of the 7-consecutive-day period or after a 34-hour restart and you are not required to follow the 30-minute break provision.
Summing It Up
The main objective of the ELD mandate is to reduce fatigue-related accidents on American roads. Since these are now laws in the country, failing to comply with them will attract penalties.
If a trucking company is found to be in egregious violation of these regulations, it may face a maximum penalty for each of the violations.
A violation of any of the hours of service (HOS) rules mentioned above can attract a fine of $11,000 per offense for the trucking company with no room for exception.
As for the driver, you may be fined between $1,000 and $13,000 for each violation of the above regulations. That does not include the mandatory 10 hours out of service you must spend for the violation.
Therefore, it will be safer for you and your employer to comply with the ELD mandate requirements right away. The FMCSA website has all the new hours of service rules where you can read more about them.