The trucking industry is governed by a number of state and federal regulations designed to reduce accidents and keep everyone safe on the road. Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations are among the most important rules for both drivers and carriers since they are a major factor in maintaining a good CSA score and a frequent source of violations.

From official road checks at weigh stations to unplanned stops by law enforcement to check for violations, there are many ways that these regulations are enforced. The recent International Roadcheck on May 4th through the 6th focused on lighting and HOS violations while the upcoming Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) annual Operation Safe Driver Week will focus on speeding and unsafe driving between July 11th and 17th.

Let’s take a closer look at HOS regulations, who is subject to these rules, how they’re enforced and how new technologies can reduce violations.

HOS rules are among the most important regulations for both drivers and carriers, but who is subject to them and what are the exceptions? Share on X

What Are Hours-of-Service Regulations?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created HOS regulations to specify the maximum amount of time drivers are permitted to be on duty, including drive time, along with the number and length of rest periods. The goal is to help ensure that drivers are awake and alert and minimize the risk of distracted driving.

The four most important rules include:

  • The 14-Hour Rule: Drivers may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period. The limit is 15 cumulative hours for passenger vehicles.
  • The 11-Hour Rule: Drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. The limit is 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off-duty for passenger vehicles.
  • 30-Minute Break Rule: Drivers must take a 30-minute break when they have driven for a period of 8 cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption. The break may be satisfied by any non-driving period of 30 consecutive minutes (e.g., on-duty not driving, off-duty, sleeper berth, etc.).
  • 60/70-Hour Limit: Drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.

There are also a few important exceptions:

  • Sleeper Berth Provision: Drivers may split their required 10-hour off-duty period, as long as one off-duty period (whether in or out of the sleeper berth) is at least 2 hours long and the other involves at least 7 consecutive hours spent in the sleeper berth. All sleeper berth pairings MUST add up to at least 10 hours. When used together, neither time period counts against the maximum 14-hour driving window.
  • Adverse Driving Conditions: Drivers are allowed to extend the 11-hour maximum driving limit and 14-hour driving window by up to 2 hours when adverse driving conditions are encountered.
  • Short-Haul Exemption: A driver is exempt from the requirements if the driver operates within a 150 air-mile radius of the normal work reporting location and the driver does not exceed a maximum duty period of 14 hours. Drivers using the short-haul exemption must report and return to the normal work reporting location within 14 consecutive hours and stay within a 150 air-mile radius of the work reporting location.
  • Emergency Conditions: Hours-of-Service rules may be temporarily lifted in emergency situations. In order to be valid, a federal or state institution must declare and acknowledge a state of emergency. For example, there was an HOS exemption issued on May 9, 2021 in response to the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, which applies to fleets transporting fuel in affected areas.

Note: This list reflects new additions to HOS regulations made in 2020.

Who Must Follow Hours-of-Service Regulations?

HOS regulations apply to most commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers in the United States, including vehicles that transport products and people. That said, some CMVs that fall under HOS regulations may be able to side-step some rules if they fall under one of the exceptions listed above, such as the Short-Haul Exemption.

CMVs generally include vehicles that meet any of the following criteria:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more including any load.
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more.
  • Is transporting hazardous waste materials in a quantity requiring placards.
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) and not for compensation.
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation.

How Are Hours-of-Service Regulations Enforced?

HOS regulations are enforced through a combination of traffic stops, weigh stations and other checkpoints along trucking routes. Following a federal mandate, Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) have become the primary way to track violations. The devices also make it much easier to keep accurate records and set alarms to avoid HOS violations.

Hours of Service

Powerfleet’s LV-9000 In-Cab Device – Source: Powerfleet

For example, Powerfleet’s LV-9000 is an ELD-compliant in-cab solution that handles complex driver workflows, provides minute-by-minute updates, and records GPS positions, fuel consumption and other trip data in real-time. These capabilities can help avoid HOS violations while helping drivers reduce errors, increase drive time, and ultimately, earn more.

Violations of HOS regulations can lead to penalties for both drivers and carriers. If a driver is caught over their HOS, they may be put out of service until they have spent enough time off-duty to come into compliance. The driver could also face fines by both state and local law enforcement officials and CSA score reductions depending on the severity of the infraction.

While most violations occur at traffic stops or weigh stations, the costliest infractions occur in an accident. If a driver operates over their HOS limits, they could be held civilly and criminally liable if an accident were to occur—even if it’s not their fault. The rise of nuclear verdicts has made these violations incredibly costly to carriers as well.

The Bottom Line

HOS regulations apply to most CMV drivers carrying products or people, although there are exceptions for short-haul vehicles and other cases. While the most common HOS violations used to be for poor or missing documentation, ELDs have become commonplace and eliminated many of these issues through automated electronic logging.

If you’re looking for a 4G/LTE ELD-compliant solution that goes beyond the basics, Powerfleet’s LV-9000 provides Electronic Drivers Vehicle Inspection Reports to improve safety and compliance, as well as records driver behaviors, such as speeding or harsh braking, in order to encourage safe driving on the road.

Contact us for a demo or to learn more today!

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