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Breaking Down Federal Trucking Regulations: Hours of Service

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Tina Robinson3 years ago

Studies about fatigued drivers have shown driving while tired can be just as dangerous as driving while under the influence of alcohol. Given the size and weight of commercial trucks, it’s crucial that drivers are well-rested and able to make split-moment decisions. Federal trucking regulations place strict limits how long drivers can be on the road and when rest breaks must be taken. These rules can be found in Section 395 of the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).

Driving Limits

Truck drivers are limited to a maximum of 11 hours driving time within a 14-hour period. Once a driver has accumulated 11 hours of driving time, he or she must not drive again until being off-duty for at least 10 consecutive hours. Additionally, a driver must take a 30-minute rest period after eight hours since the last time the driver took a 30-minute rest period or sleeper berth break. The 14-hour driving “window” is consecutive and includes any off-duty time taken once those hours start, however, there ways that we will look at that a driver can extend that time.

Sleeper Berth Provision

Trucks equipped with sleeper berths can be used in several ways to get required off-duty time.

  • Any time spent in the sleeper berth for 10 or more consecutive hours will restart the 14-hour driving window.
  • If a driver spends at least eight consecutive hours or more in the sleeper berth, those hours do not count towards the 14-hour window. This extends the amount of time a driver has to reach the maximum of 11 hours of driving time.
  • A driver can also use the sleeper berth to get the “equivalent of 10 hours of consecutive off-duty time.” To do this, a driver must spend two separate rest periods in the sleeper berth: one rest period of eight or more hours and a second rest period of two or more hours. This time is counted towards the 14-hour driving window, but once both rest periods have been taken, the 14-hour window will restart at the point when the first rest period was taken.
60/70-Hour Duty Limit

In addition to driving time limits, truckers are limited to the amount of time they can be on duty. Depending on how their employer schedules trucks, a driver cannot work more than 60 hours in a 7-day period or 70 hours in an 8-day period. These hours include any time spent on duty, including work done for anyone other than the motor carrier, not just driving time.

Drivers can use what is called the “34-hour restart” once every two weeks in order to increase that limit. In order to do so, a driver must spend at least 34 consecutive hours off duty. Additionally, the 34 hours must include two off-duty periods from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Once that time period is completed, a driver’s 60/70-hour limit resets.

Adverse Driving Condition Exception

The only time a driver is legally allowed to drive more than 11 hours is if there are adverse driving conditions. In the events of unforeseen road conditions such as snow, fog, or traffic accidents that cause major shut downs, a driver is allowed to drive an additional two hours. A driver is still required to observe the 14-hour window, however.

Although complex, the limits established by the FMCSA are designed to keep tired drivers off the road. Truckers, with a few exceptions, are required to keep a detailed log book of their time spent driving, on duty, off duty and in sleeper berths. These records must be made available to law enforcement when requested. Some trucks are also equipped automatic on-board recording devices that replace a traditional paper log.

Breaking Down Federal Trucking Regulations is a four-part blog series highlighting federal trucking regulations as established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. New installments will appear on the Thomas J. Henry blog every Friday through June 20. Read Part I | Part II 


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