To ensure road safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has developed several hours-of-service rules and regulations. The goal of these hours-of-service rules is to minimize driver fatigue and improve safety for everyone on the road.
Although the rules are straightforward, there are also four hours-of-service exemptions that drivers and fleet managers should be aware of.
Commercial drivers can be exempt from some HOS rules if certain conditions are met. These exemptions are generally related to the 30-minute rest break, 14-hour period, and 11-hour rule.
1. the 30-minute break rule exemption
According to the 30-minute break rule, drivers can’t log driving time if eight hours have passed since the last off-duty period of 30 consecutive minutes. Drivers can perform non-driving tasks after eight hours without taking a break, but they can’t drive.
The 30-minute break rule exemption
Two categories of drivers are exempt from the 30-minute break rule:
- Short-haul drivers who qualify for the 100-air-mile radius provision
- Short-haul drivers who qualify for the 150-air-mile radius provision and operate non-CDL vehicles
2. The 16-hour short-haul exception
The 16-hour short-haul exception allows qualifying drivers to extend their 14-hour driving window to 16 hours once every seven consecutive days.
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 they’ve taken 10 consecutive hours off duty. For passenger-carrying motor vehicles, the limit is 15 cumulative hours.
The 16-hour short-haul exception
A property-carrying driver can use this exception if:
- The driver has returned to the driver’s 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 hasn’t 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).
Drivers who use the 16-hour short-haul exception can’t use the non-CDL 150 air-mile exemption.
3. Adverse driving conditions exemption
This hours-of-service exemption allows drivers to extend their maximum driving limit by two hours when certain conditions are met. For example, the 11-hour driving limit extended to 13 hours.
This exemption only works when the adverse driving conditions couldn’t have been known before the driver started driving.
Circumstances include weather changes, such as unexpected fog or snow, or an unforeseen road closure due to an accident.
The exemption wouldn’t be applicable if the driver had previous knowledge of the adverse driving conditions or could have known of the conditions through basic trip planning or common sense. For example, a forecasted blizzard or rush hour traffic wouldn’t meet the conditions necessary for this exemption to be valid.
Adverse driving conditions exemption and property-carrying drivers
Property-carrying drivers can drive a maximum of 11 hours per shift. The adverse driving conditions exemption extends the 11-hour driving limit to 13 hours.
This exemption doesn’t extend the 14-hour driving period. It means that all 13 hours of driving must still be completed within the 14-hour window.
Adverse driving conditions exemption and passenger-carrying drivers
Passenger-carrying drivers can drive a maximum of 10 hours per shift. The adverse driving conditions exemption extends the 10 hours of drive time to 12 hours.
Again, this exemption doesn’t extend the 15-hour driving period for passenger-carrying drivers.
4. Direct emergency assistance
A CMV driver has to comply with all hours-of-service regulations. However, some or all HOS rules can be temporarily lifted in emergency situations.
Emergency conditions exception details
Section 395.1(b)(2) states that in case of an emergency, a driver may complete their run without being in violation of the provisions of the regulations in this part if such run reasonably could have been completed absent the emergency.
When the emergency conditions exception is applicable
Emergency conditions are declared by the president, state governors, and/or the FMCSA. If an official federal or state institution hasn’t acknowledged an emergency state, the exception isn’t applicable.
Drivers should always first check with federal and/or state officials.
Here’s a list of active emergency declarations.
Stay compliant with Motive
Understanding these hours-of-service exemptions and HOS rules will allow you to stay compliant and plan your operations more efficiently.