The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the number of hours commercial drivers may drive and work per day and week. These rules also encompass other restrictions, such as taking mandatory rest breaks.

The FMCSA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) refer to these rules as the Hours of Service rules. The idea is to regulate the number of hours drivers drive to minimize drowsiness and driver fatigue. According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, 13% of commercial motor vehicle drivers were considered to be fatigued at the time of collisions.

All commercial drivers are required to know and abide by the DOT HOS rules that apply to them in order to stay compliant. Many drivers are also required to record their Hours of Service with an ELD.

Further reading: What is an ELD or Electronic Logging Device?

Here is some helpful information you need to know about DOT driving Hours of Service rules, exceptions, and how to record them to stay compliant.

Understanding hours of service rules and the ELD mandate

On Dec. 18, 2017, the ELD mandate became effective. According to the final ELD rule, non-exempt commercial drivers need to install FMCSA-registered Electronic Logging Devices that would automatically record a driver’s drive time.

Before the ELD mandate, drivers used to record their HOS on paper, and editing the records wasn’t as difficult. After the implementation of the ELD mandate, drivers have to be very mindful of their available Hours of Service rules.

Let’s see some of the big DOT HOS rules that all drivers need to be aware of:

1. The 14-hour rule

According to the 14-hour rule, a property-carrying driver may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty. The driver can’t resume driving unless he/she has taken 10 consecutive hours off-duty. The limit is 15 cumulative hours for passenger-carrying vehicles.

2. The 11-hour rule

According to the 11-hour rule, a property-carrying driver can drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty within the 14-hour period.

Passenger-carrying drivers can drive up to 10 hours after eight consecutive hours off duty.

3. The 30-minute break rule

The 30-minute break rule states that drivers cannot log DOT driving hours or driving time if eight hours have passed since the last off-duty period of 30 consecutive minutes. They will have to take a break of 30 consecutive minutes.

It is important to note that the 30-minute break rule restricts drivers from driving. They may perform non-driving tasks after 8 hours without taking a break.

4. The 60-hour and 70-hour limit

There is a 60/70 hour limit for drivers.

According to this rule, a driver may not drive after 60 hours on duty in seven consecutive days, applicable for carriers that do not operate every day of the week, or 70 hours on duty in eight consecutive days, for carriers that do operate every day of the week.

The seven/eight consecutive day period can be restarted if the driver takes 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.

Who must comply with the DOT HOS rules?

Hours of Service rules apply to most drivers who drive a commercial motor vehicle.

Interstate drivers are subject to federal Hours of Service regulations. Intrastate drivers may be subject to their State Hours of Service rules and ELD mandates, e.g., the Texas ELD mandate.

When choosing an ELD, it is important to pick an ELD solution that accommodates the different intrastate rules, as Motive does.

What are the Hours of Service exemptions?

There are also certain exceptions to the Hours of Service rules:

1. The 30-minute break exception

All property-carrying commercial drivers are required to take a break of 30 consecutive minutes if eight hours have passed since their last off-duty period.

However, (1) short-haul drivers who qualify for the 100 air-mile radius and (2) short-haul drivers who qualify for the 150 air-mile radius provision and operate non-CDL vehicles are exempt from the 30-minute break rule. These exemptions are found at 49 CFR 395.1(e).

2. The 16-hour short-haul exception

A property-carrying commercial driver can extend his 14-hour driving window to 16 hours once every seven consecutive days if he qualifies for the 16-hour short-haul exception.

The criteria for qualifying for the 16-hour short-haul exception is if:

  • The driver has returned to his normal work reporting location, and the carrier released the driver from duty at that location for the previous five duty tours the driver has worked
  • The driver has returned to the normal work reporting location, and the carrier releases the driver from duty within 16 hours after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty
  • The driver has not taken this exemption within the previous six consecutive days, except when the driver has begun a new seven or eight-consecutive day period with the beginning of any off-duty period of 34 or more consecutive hours as allowed by §395.3(c).

3. Adverse driving conditions

Drivers can extend their maximum DOT driving hours limit by up to two hours — from 11 hours per shift to 13 hours — under adverse driving conditions if:

  • The adverse driving conditions could not be known before the driving started driving
  • The driver could not have forecasted the adverse driving conditions through basic common sense or trip planning

Passenger-carrying drivers can extend their driving time (DOT driving hours) from 10 hours per shift to 12 hours.

However, the adverse driving condition exception does not extend the 14-hour and 15-hour driving window for property-carrying and passenger-carrying drivers. This exception is found at 49 CFR 395.1(b).

4. Emergency conditions

Some or all Hours of Service rules can be temporarily lifted in case of emergency conditions.

For the exemption to be valid, a federal or state institution must declare and acknowledge the state of emergency. You can check the list of active emergency declarations by the FMCSA here.

Proposed changes to the hours of service rules

After the implementation of Electronic Logging Devices, the FMCSA, ELD manufacturers, and other industry stakeholders were able to identify areas of improvement in the Hours of Service rules.

The FMCSA is considering the following proposed changes in the Hours of Service rules:

  • Extending the short-haul exemption in 395.1(e)(1) from 12 to 14 hours and from 100 to 150 air-miles
  • Modifying the adverse driving conditions exception to extend the driving window
  • Changing the 30-minute break requirement to apply after eight hours of drive-time without at least 30 minutes of non-driving time
  • Allowing a seven-three split sleeper with neither period counting against the 14-hour clock
  • Pausing the 14-hour clock with 30 minutes to three hours consecutive off-duty (so long as you take 10 hours off-duty at the end of your shift)

The purpose of these changes is to “provide greater flexibility to drivers subject to the HOS rules without adversely affecting safety.”

How to log hours of service with Motive

Logging Hours of Service and staying compliant with Motive is easy.

When a driver connects the Motive App to the Vehicle Gateway, Motive will automatically set your duty status to driving once you start driving over five miles per hour. Your remaining Hours of Service are automatically calculated and displayed on your mobile screen.

Duty statuses can be changed in the mobile app with just a couple of clicks.

Here is a video that details each step.

If you want more information about installing the Motive ELD in your vehicle, recording Hours of Service, simplifying vehicle fleet management, and staying compliant with Motive, check out this 11-minute video on Motive ELD training for drivers.

Learn more by reading our in-depth article about ELD solutions.