The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), regulates the number of hours a truck driver may drive per day as well as the total number of hours he or she may work per week. These rules are put in place for both the safety of the drivers and others on the road. The regulations limit how much time can be driven to ensure drivers are rested. These rules can be very complicated and confusing. Breaking down the rules by category may help clarify them.
General Hours of Service Guidelines
There are federal hours of service regulations in place for different types of drivers, those who are property-carrying drivers and passenger-carrying drivers.
Of those classes, there are specific rules for the latter, which can drive fewer hours per day with less rest, and even further distinctions for the former that determine what rules must be followed.
For example, drivers who transport property in the same state are subject to state regulations but not federal regulations. Whereas drivers who deliver materials from state to state must comply with federal regulations. Among the regulations:
- A reset occurs when a driver has had marked 34 consecutive hours off duty. The workweek starts after the last legal reset. For example, if you begin at 1 a.m. on Monday, then the workweek continues until 1 a.m. the following Monday.
- Each duty period must begin with at least 10 hours off-duty.
- Drivers may work no more than 60 hours on-duty over seven consecutive days or 70 hours over eight days. And they need to maintain a driver's log for seven days and eight days after, respectively.
- Drivers may be on duty for up to 14 hours following 10 hours off duty, but they are limited to 11 hours of driving time.
- Drivers must take a mandatory 30-minute break by their eighth hour of coming on duty.
- The 14-hour duty period may not be extended with off-duty time for breaks, meals, fuel stops, etc.
14-Hour Driving Window Example from FMCSA:
You have had 10 continuous hours off and you come to work at 6:00 a.m. You must not drive your truck after 8:00 p.m. that evening, which is 14 hours later. You may do other work after 8:00 p.m., but you cannot do any more driving until you have taken another 10 consecutive hours off, or the equivalent of at least 10 consecutive hours off duty.
11-Hour Driving Limit Example from FMCSA:
You have had 10 consecutive hours off. You come to work at 6:00 a.m. and drive from 7:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. (7 hours driving). You take a 30-minute break as required, and then can drive for another 4 hours until 6:30 p.m. You must not drive again until you have at least 10 consecutive hours off duty. You may do other work after 6:30 p.m., but you cannot do any more driving of a commercial motor vehicle
on a public road.
70-Hour/8-Day Limit Example from FMCSA:
If you follow the 70-hour/8-day limit and work 14 hours per day for 5 days in a row, you will have been on duty for 70 hours. You would not be able drive again until you drop below 70 hours worked in an 8-day period. However, if your company allows you to use the 34-hour restart provision, you would have driving time available immediately after 34 consecutive hours off duty. You would then begin a new period of 8 consecutive days and have 70 hours available.
Adverse Driving Conditions Exception
The Adverse Driving Condition exception allows drivers to extend their drive time by two hours in the event that adverse weather such as snow or fog or traffic delays due to unforeseen traffic incidents or construction slows down their commute.
- If a driver cannot safely complete the run within the maximum driving time of 11 hours, that driver may drive up to an additional two hours to reach a place. However, the driver may not drive after the 14th hour since coming on duty.
- If weather conditions will not safely allow a driver to pull over at a hotel or rest stop and stop for 10 hours off-duty, then the driver may extend their drive time up to two hours.
- This exception does not mean a driver can work longer because of bad weather. If a driver can safely stop and layover within an 11-hour drive time, they are required to do so, provided they cannot make it back to their home terminal within 14 hours (or under the 16-hour exception) if available.
- A driver on a one-day work schedule can be on duty for 16 hours if the driver begins and ends at the same terminal.
- Drive time may not exceed 11 hours.
- A driver cannot use both the 16-hour exception and the Adverse Driving Conditions exception together.
- If the driver has a layover on any day, the 16-hour exception can't be used—this includes the day of the layover.
- A driver that has used the 16-hour exception may not use it again until they have had a 34-hour reset.
- Drivers may not drive past the 16th hour when coming on-duty.
Penalties for Violating Hours of Service Rules
- Drivers may be placed on shut down (at roadside) until they have accumulated enough off-duty time to be back in compliance.
- State and local law enforcement officials may assess fines.
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration may levy civil penalties on a driver or carrier, ranging from $1,000 to $11,000 per violation depending on the severity.
- A carrier's safety rating can be downgraded for a pattern of violations.
- Federal criminal penalties can be brought against carriers who knowingly and willfully allow or require violations; or against drivers who knowingly and willfully violate the regulations.