The Hours of Service (HOS) rules dictate how many hours a driver can work before being required to take mandatory time off. The purpose of this is to eliminate, if not reduce crashes associated with drowsiness. Based on the data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving is responsible for an estimated 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013. These numbers are even underestimated.

With the alarming number of accidents due to drowsy driving, we can’t discount the importance of observing the HOS rules.

Who must comply to the HOS

According to FMCSA, most drivers who drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) must follow the HOS rules. A CMV is a vehicle that is used for interstate commerce and meets any of these descriptions:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
  • Has a GVWR or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is used for transporting 16 or more passengers including the driver; not for compensation
  • Is used for transporting nine or more passengers including the driver for compensation
  • Is transporting hazardous materials and carrying a quantity that requires placards 

Driver Statuses

When logging HOS, there are 4 basic statuses that you can use:

  • Off Duty – this should be your status when you are not working
  • Sleeper Berth – your status when sleeping in the truck’s sleeper area
  • Driving – when you are behind the wheel
  • On Duty – use this status when you are doing work other than driving such as unloading and loading freight, fueling, inspection, etc.

The HOS Rules for Property-Carrying Vehicles

11-hour driving limit

Under this rule, a driver may drive up to 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours of being off duty. After 11 hours of driving, you will then be required to take a 10-hour break.

14-hour On Duty shift limit

As soon as a driver changes status to On-duty to start his day, the clock will start ticking for the 14-hour limit. It will not stop ticking even if you switch to Sleeper Berth or Off Duty. After the 14th hour, a driver must take a 10-hour break before driving again.

60/70-hour limit

There is also a 60-hour limit in 7 days and a 70-hour limit in 8 days. This rule means that you may not drive after spending 60/70 hours On Duty and Driving in 7/8 consecutive days. This rule will only restart after taking at least 34 consecutive hours Off Duty.

8-hour, 30-minute break rule

As soon as you change to On Duty or Driving, the clock will start ticking for the 8-hour limit. Before the 8th hour is up, you need to take at least a 30-minute break and change to Sleeper Berth or Off Duty status. 

This rule restricts drivers from driving after working 8 hours without a break. You don’t have to take a break if you will not drive after the 8th hour. A valid break is when you change status to Off Duty or Sleeper Berth.

Sleeper Berth Provision

Drivers using a sleeper berth are required to render at least 8 consecutive hours on Sleeper Berth status plus another two consecutive hours on Sleeper Berth or Off Duty or a combination of the two.

Penalties for Violating the Hours-of-Service Rules

Drivers and carriers that violate the HOS rules face serious penalties:

  • A driver may be placed out-of-service at roadside until after accumulating enough break or off-duty time in compliance.
  • Fees and fines
  • You and your carrier’s score can take a hit under the CSA enforcement program, which in turn can result in various enforcement actions.
  • Depending on the severity of the violation, the FMCSA may also levy civil penalties which could amount to thousands of dollars.
  • Your business safety rating may be downgraded if you have a pattern of violations.

This guide serves as a helpful reminder to drivers and carriers of the Hours-of-Service rules. Your 100-percent compliance is necessary to avoid penalties and other actions from various regulatory bodies.