The U.S. economy would come to a screeching halt without truckers. Trucks haul more than 70% of all freight tonnage in the U.S. To move that much freight each year, we need more than 3.5 million truckers.
With such high demand for their services, truckers face one major problem: being overworked.
An overworked, tired driver is at high risk of getting into an accident, endangering others on the road and damaging the freight that’s being hauled.
To help address this problem, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has implemented hours of service limits that over-the-road (OTR) truckers must follow. These rules regulate truck driver hours to ensure that drivers are well-rested and not overworked when on the job.
The DOT’s Rules for Truck Driver Hours Per Week
Safety is the DOT’s biggest concern, and for this reason, they’ve created “hours of service limits” to keep fatigued drivers off roadways. These regulations dictate when and for how long you may drive.
You can find more information about hours-of-service regulations in Part 395 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
If you’re an OTR driver, then you must comply with the hours-of-service regulations. Even if you only drive OTR once in a while, you still must comply with these rules when you’re hauling freight across state lines or country borders.
If you’re involved in intrastate commerce, meaning that you never cross state borders, these Federal rules do not apply to you. But keep in mind that most states have rules that are similar to the DOT’s regulations.
DOT Hours of Service Limits
The hours-of-service rules dictate when and for how long you can drive. Drivers must comply with three maximum duty limits at all times:
- 14-hour driving window
- 11-hour driving window
14-Hour Driving Window
Think of the 14-hour driving window as your daily driving limit. Truckers are allowed 14 consecutive hours in which they may drive up to 11 hours after being off for 10 or more consecutive hours.
- You have a 14-hour period.
- In that 14-hour period, you may drive your vehicle up to 11 hours.
- This driving window is only available after you have been off for at least 10 consecutive hours.
All of your driving is limited to this 14-hour period even if you take some off-duty time to nap or eat lunch during those 14 hours.
11-Hour Driving Window
In the 14-hour window listed above, you may drive your truck for 11 hours. So, you may drive your truck for 11 hours in a 14-hour window. But driving is not permitted if it has been more than 8 hours since the end of your last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes.
Once you have reached the 11-hour driving limit, you must be off-duty for 10 consecutive hours before you may drive again.
These rules are a little confusing, so let’s look at an example from the DOT’s handbook:
- You come into work at 6 am after having 10 consecutive hours off.
- You drive from 7 am until 2 pm for a total of 7 hours of driving.
- You take a 30-minute break, which allows you to drive for another 4 hours until 6:30 pm.
- You may not drive again until you’ve had at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty. You may do other work after 6:30 pm, but you cannot drive your commercial motor vehicle on a public roadway.
DOT 60/70 Hour Duty Rule
In addition to the rules listed above, the DOT also has a 60/70-hour limit based on a 7 or 8-day period. These are often considered “weekly” limits, but these limits are not based on a set week, like Saturday through Saturday. These rules apply to rolling or floating 7-day or 8-day periods.
As a driver, you will be required to follow one of two limits:
- If your employer does not operate vehicles every day of the week, you are not permitted to drive a commercial motor vehicle after being on duty for 60 hours during any seven consecutive days. Once you reach this limit, you may not drive again until you have been off-duty long enough to fall back below this limit. Any other hours that you work must also be added to the total.
- If your employer does operate vehicles every day of the week, you may be assigned to the 70-hour/8-day schedule. This means that you are not permitted to drive a commercial motor vehicle after a you have been on-duty for 70 hours in any eight consecutive days. Once you reach this limit, you may not drive again until you have been off-duty long enough to fall back below this limit. Any other hours that you work must also be added to the total.
Under the hours-of-service regulations, drivers may “restart” their 60- or 70-hour limits by taking 34 or more consecutive hours off-duty. After 34 consecutive hours of being off-duty, your full 60- or 70-hour limits will be available again.
The 30-minute rule dictates that drivers may not pass their 8th hour of duty until they’ve taken a 30-minute off-duty or sleeper-berth break.
For example, if you start driving at 6 am, you must take a 30-minute off-duty break at 2pm or you will not be able to drive past 2 pm.
How do You Record Your Hours of Service?
Traditionally, drivers recorded their hours of service on sheets of paper called log sheets. Now, with the use of smartphones and mobile devices being so common, drivers typically keep track of their hours using an app to create Electronic Logs.
Electronic Logs provide a snapshot of what a driver did in a 24-hour period. Drivers must choose one of 4 duty statuses during their shift:
- On-duty: The time spent working, but not driving.
- Driving: The time spent driving on public roads.
- Sleeper: The time spent sleeping in the truck’s sleeper birth.
- Off-duty: Time period in which the driver is not working.
The DOT will be requiring all drivers to switch to Electronic Logs to simplify the hour recording process.