Hours of Service (HOS) Rules

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) introduced the ELD mandate to streamline the enforcement of the Hours of Service rule from the Department of Transport (DOT). The HOS rule sets out a driver’s on-duty and off-duty time. Some drivers struggle to understand the HOS rules, so we are going to break it down for you in this article.

Duty Statuses (Hours you must log)

The rule requires drivers to maintain a record of duty status (RODS). Drivers must log four status hours. These are:

  • Off Duty time – You don’t work during this period. This is not limited to driving only, and includes not working in the yard.
  • On Duty time – This relates to all work done except driving, and includes work loading, fueling, unloading, filling out paperwork, vehicle inspection, etc.
  • Driving time – This is the time logged for driving the truck, and includes the time spent driving to the yard unless you’re exempted (see exemptions).
  • Sleeper Berth – The time spent sleeping or resting in the sleeper section of your truck.

HOS Rules

11-hour driving limit – A driver is allowed to drive for 11 total hours after taking a 10-hour off duty time. This means you must go off duty for 10 hours after every 11-hour driving period.

14-hour limit – This is the maximum time a driver can be on duty for before taking a mandatory 10-hour off duty time. This clock starts ticking the moment you report on duty and will not stop even during periods you are not driving. You must achieve your 11-hour allowed driving time within this 14-hour period, and cannot carry on driving beyond the 14-hour limit. You must go off duty for 10 hours after the 14 hours elapse even it you’ve been driving for less than 11 hours on the road. You can’t extend the period with break times or other non-driving activities.

60/70-hour limit – This is the total driving time allowed per week. The limit is 60 hours during a 7-day period or 70 hours for an 8-day period. However, a driver an reset this limit if they take a break of 34 consecutive hours during the 6 or 7 day period. You have to be off duty for all of those 34 hours to reset your 60/70 hour limit before the 7/8-day period ends. Those who want to use the 7-day rule must have a day off each week.

30-minute break rule – The HOS rules mandate drivers to stop driving and take a 30-minute break after driving for 8 consecutive hours on the road after their last break. The driver can take this 30-minute break when on-duty, off-duty, or sleeper berth period. You just have to make sure you don’t drive for more than 8 consecutive hours without taking a break.

Some Exceptions to the DOT Hours of Service Rules

The FMCSA has made some special exceptions to the DOT HOS rules. This allows drivers to extend or reset the time limits in under some circumstances. Lets take a look at these exceptions.

Short-Haul Exemption – The FMCSA grants short haul drivers an exemption from HOS rules under certain strict circumstances. The driver must deliver their load within 150 air miles from the source of the load. You are not required to keep a log of your HOS under this exemption, but you must make a record of your daily driving hours. This short-haul exemption might not apply to every freight driver so visit the FMCSA’s website on this to find out if you qualify for this exemption. This exemption mostly applies to the agricultural {i} sector.

Personal Conveyance Exception – The HOS time does not include using the truck as a personal transport vehicle while off duty. You must have logged out of performing any activity that commercially benefits the carrier. This personal conveyance time can include the time spent driving a loaded truck as long as you’re off-duty. There are strict guidelines governing the use of a commercial motor vehicle for personal conveyance time under the HOS rule.

  • The driver must be relieved of all work that benefits the carrier. You must be on off-duty status to claim personal conveyance time.
  • Driving the vehicle for fueling, to the workshop or garage for repairs, from the garage or workshop after repairs, for inspection, etc., does not count as personal conveyance because these are activities that benefit the carrier.
  • Driving the empty vehicle back to base (home or facility) after delivering a load does not count towards personal conveyance time.
  • Personal conveyance time can count towards your 10-hour off-duty time or 34-hour reset time.
  • A few examples of situations under which you can claim personal conveyance while driving off-duty.
    • When you have to drive the truck from a loading or unloading facility to a nearby, safe place for parking after running out of HOS driving hours. You must add this driving time to the mandatory 10-hour off-duty time.
    • En route driving time, which is when you’re driving the vehicle from your motel, hotel, and truck stops to a restaurant, the cinema, stadium, etc. Remember this only counts when you’re off-duty.
    • Driving to and from your residence to and from the terminal, trailer-drop lot, and work sites. You must be on off-duty status and the distance covered should be reasonable to give you adequate resting time.
    • Driving to the closest safe location for rest after picking up or delivering a load. Keep the driving time under this exception as short as possible, so park at the first safe location you come across.
    • Time spent driving the vehicle to a safe location after being asked by an official (example, police) to move the vehicle during off-duty time.
  • Examples of using your truck for activities that will not fall under personal conveyance.
    • Any driving activity that aims to move your truck closer to your destination other than to the closest safe parking place for rest. It will be a violation to skip the nearest parking facility and drive to the next one under personal conveyance.
    • Any driving activity initiated by a call from your carrier, including driving from your home to pick up a load, driving an empty trailer to the lot, moving and parking trailers or trucks, etc.
    • Driving the vehicle to the workshop for repairs or maintenance and picking up the vehicle from the workshop after repairs or maintenance.
    • Returning to the terminal after picking up a load from a shipper’s facility or delivering a load to a receiver.

Yard Moves – The FMCSA has introduced a special driving category known as yard move. It applies to situations where you have to move your truck within a limited access location (such as a parking lot or a loading yard) without having this driving time added to your total available driving time. For example, someone asks you to move your truck a few meters at a parking lot so another truck can move, or you need to move your truck a few meters to get closer to the loading dock when picking up a load. Yard moves still eat into your on-duty time but will not affect your 11-hour driving time. Some ELD providers limit your yard move to a maximum of 5 miles at a time.

All About the Sleeper Berth

Lets look at the sleeper berth provision of the HOS rules in more details. The sleeper berth is the time you spent sleeping in the sleep cabin of your truck.

We’ll look at the popular 8/2 sleeper berth split, but drivers can also do a 7/3 split if they choose to. The rules are the same no matter which split you choose.

A lot of drivers find the 8/2 split to be very confusing. Some carriers ban their drivers from using the 8/2 split altogether because of how complicated it can be. We don’t see a lot of benefits with this split, but some drivers may benefit from it under some circumstances.

The HOS rules require drivers to take 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time to reset their 11-hour driving and 14-hour on-duty clocks. However, the rule makes it possible for drivers to split this 10 hours into two periods in what is known as an 8/2 split.

Here is the gist of the rule. You can drive for a period (say 5 hours) and stop and rest in your sleeper cabin for 8 hours, wake up and continue driving for the remainder of your 11-hour driving allowance (in this case 6 hours), and rest for an additional 2 hours in or outside the sleeper cabin. It’s a bit more complicated than this so check out our split sleeper berth article {i} for a complete explanation of this provision.


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