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Hours of Service Rules 2021: DOT Trucking ELD Regulations

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The Hours of Service (HOS) regulation limits driving times to periods of 11 consecutive hours. These rules apply to drivers of vehicles that are 10,000 lbs. or higher (<10,001). While the HOS regulation has existed since 1938, modern regulations came into force in 2003, 2005, and were updated further in 2017. These regulations work to reduce accidents caused by driver fatigue. Drivers are essentially forced to take breaks, to limit the total number of hours they drive per week, and to take sufficient periods of rest between driving.  

The FMCSA enforces the hours of service regulation by requiring all drivers maintain logs. This ties into the ELD mandate, where drivers must have a Record of Duty listing hours of service available at all times. These include electronic logs recorded by an ELD, with automatic Hours of Service captured from the vehicle’s data port. Drivers must also maintain a Record of Service (RODs), which can be requested and viewed by a law enforcement official at any time.  

While limits on driving time can feel constricting to drivers, HOS limitations have been proven to reduce fatigue-related accidents, which account for 13% or more of all commercial roadway collisions. Installing electronic logging devices also adds upfront costs for fleets. At the same time, most devices include monitoring and optimization tools, reducing time expenditure for IFTA fuel tax reports, DIVRS, and logging, and may eventually save money over monthly costs.  

Who Must Comply?

According to the FMSCA, most commercial motor vehicles (CMV) must comply with the HOS regulation. The FMSCA and Department of Transportation (DOT) use the following factors to identify a vehicle under HOS obligation. If your vehicle is used in business and is involved in interstate commerce and meets any of the following points, you are HOS obligated 

  • Weights <10,001  
  • Gross vehicle weight rating is <10,001 lbs. or more  
  • Gross combination weight rating is <10,001 lbs., or more  
  • Designed or used to transport 16 people (passengers + driver) without compensation  
  • Designed or used to transport 8 people (passengers + driver) with compensation  
  • Transports hazardous materials and requires placards  

If your vehicle is not used for a business or is not involved in interstate commerce, you are likely exempt from the HOS ruling. Importantly, passenger vehicles and agricultural equipment may fall under different guidelines than commercial freight vehicles. Short-haul drivers may also be exempt, which we will discuss later in this post.  

Driver’s HOS Log Status

Regulation 49 CFR §395.2 defines HOS log status to ensure clarity and proper logging. Understanding what log status means will help you to optimize driver time and scheduling to improve HOS compliance.  

Status   Description  
On Duty   All-time spent on duty. This begins when the driver is ready to work and ends when they are relieved from all responsibilities for performing work. Drivers are limited to a maximum of 8 hours of on-duty status before they must take a 30-minute break. It includes Driving. Drivers can log a maximum of 14 hours of On-Duty hours before they must take a 10-hour off-duty break.  
Driving   Time spent driving the commercial motor vehicle. This cannot exceed 70 hours in an 8-day period or 60 hours in a 7-day period  
Sleeper Berth   Time spent resting or sleeping in the sleeper berth. FMCSA regulation §393.76 lists that a sleeper berth must be at least 75x25x25 to qualify under HOS regulation. 
Off Duty   Drivers must spend at least 10 hours off-duty after 14 hours on-duty. Drivers can spend 34 hours off-duty to reset the 70-hour in 8-day period  

 On Duty Notes: Many fleets can improve HOS compliance by better understanding of what “on duty” means. Optimizing driver schedules to avoid wait times and to reduce loading times can greatly increase the driving time.  

“On Duty” includes:  

  • Wait times for load, dispatch, etc. This includes any time spent on a commercial property unless the driver is specifically relieved from duty.  
  • Inspection, servicing, or conditioning the vehicle  
  • Border crossing including wait times and inspections  
  • All-time inside an obligated video, unless resting or sleeping in a berth  
  • Loading, unloading, supervising, or assisting load  
  • Giving, receiving, or signing receipts, documentation, or paperwork for loads or the vehicle  
  • Maintenance, repair, and attendance of a disabled vehicle  
  • Interactions with authorities in relation to the vehicle, including post-accident  
  • Performing any compensated work, in any capacity, for any organization 

Hours of Service Rules

Hours of service rules can seem complicated, but they are largely straightforward. If you have an ELD installed, it will automate reminders and timelines so that you do not violate regulations.  

The rules are as follows:  

11-Hour Driving Rule

A driver may spend a maximum of 11 hours behind the wheel of a CMV before needing 10 hours off-duty. Drivers with passenger vehicles can drive a maximum of 11 hours before needing 8 hours off-duty.  

14-Hour On-Shift Duty Rule

The Driver may have a maximum shift-length of 14 hours, including any breaks. The clock starts ticking as soon as you switch to On Duty status. After the 14 hours are up, the driver needs 10 hours off-duty. Breaks are counted as part of the shift. Passenger vehicles use a separate, 15-hour shift. Breaks are not counted as part of the shift. Passenger-vehicle drivers also only need 8-hours off duty.  

8 Hours On-Duty = 30 Minute Break  

Drivers must take a minimum of a 30-minute break, off duty or in the sleeper berth, after 8 hours of driving.  

70 Hours in 8 Days or 60 Hours in 7 Days 

Time spent on duty cannot exceed 70 hours in 8 days or 60 hours in 7 days. Dispatch can decide which variation they want to use. Time resets at midnight.  

34-Hour Restart 

Any driver can reset their 70- or 60-hour period by taking a 34-hour off-duty status. As of the 2020 update, this is no longer limited to once per week. Theoretically, a driver can work in the beginning of the week, take a break to reset hours, work more, and then take another break in the same week. Therefore, a driver may theoretically reset hours multiple times during the week to accommodate driving time for longer trips at the end of the week 

10-Hours Off Duty  

The driver must take 10 hours off-duty or in the Sleeper Berth after reaching 14 hours of On-Duty status. The driver must spend 10 hours off-duty or in the Sleeper Berth to drive after reaching 11 hours of driving time.  

Sleeper Berth Provision  

Drivers may take a minimum of 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and 2 consecutive hours in other off-duty status, with the two periods meeting at least 10 hours. This ruling can be complicated because the sleeper berth provision splits the time allotment for driving. After each off-duty period, the driver can only drive for the time remaining on the previous 11 hours.  

The Sleeper Berth Provision is not a re-start of the 11-hour or 14-hour rule. It simply moves the start of the window to the On-Duty period before the last Off-Duty period.  

Example: Chris drives for 7 hours. He stops and takes an 8-hour rest in the sleeper birth. Waking up, he has 4 hours remaining of his allotted 11 hours. Chris drives for 4 hours. He takes a 2 hour off-duty status including stopping for a meal. Chris is then able to drive another 7 hours before reaching the maximum allotment of 11.  

The sleeper berth provision essentially shortens the maximum time the driver can be on-duty or driving at any given time. However, it allows the drivers to break work up in ways that are safer, allow them to reach destinations at a more convenient time, and reduce unnecessary on-duty wait times.  

Special Cases and Exceptions

The FMCSA offers several special cases and exceptions where a driver may be being the wheel and not HOS complicit.  

Personal Conveyance / Authorized Personal Use

The FMCSA exempts drivers from HOS if they are using a CMV for personal conveyance. Personal conveyance includes: 

  • Driving too and from lodging or residence or off-duty eateries or entertainment 
  • Commuting from a residence or lodging to work sites or trailer sites. If drive time interferes with the driver’s ability to receive adequate rest, the FMCSA will consider this a violation.  
  • Driving to a nearby, safe location to rest following loading or unloading  
  • Moving the vehicle during off-duty time at the request of a safety official  
  • Transporting personal property in off-duty setting  

The FMCSA has a long list of what does not quality as personal conveyance. These include but are not limited to:  

  • Moving a vehicle to get closer to loading or unloading points  
  • Returning to point of origin to pick up another trailer/unit  
  • Moving an empty trailer to pick up another load  
  • Repositioning a trailer at the direction of the fleet owner 
  • Driving a passenger-vehicle with passengers on board  
  • Driving or transporting a vehicle for maintenance or repair  
  • Driving to a location to obtain required rest following a violation  
  • Traveling to a terminal following a drop-off or pickup  
  • Time spent operating a vehicle or waiting during loading, disembark, or luggage stowing/delivery  

In most cases, personal conveyance rules are very straightforward. It is only personal conveyance if it only benefits the driver.  

Yard Moves

The FMCSA mandates that any conveyance completed in a yard or lot may be recorded as “on duty” rather than “driving”. Currently, the FMCSA does not clearly define what a yard move is. However, under current regulation, driving qualifies as a Yard Move if the vehicle is on motor carrier property or on the property of a customer. When drivers exceed 5 miles per hour, status automatically switches to “Driving”.  

Short Haul Exemption

Short Haul, which is defined as trips where drivers never leave a 150-mile radius, are exempt from keeping Record of Duty status. You qualify if: 

  • No trips exceed 150 miles from home base 
  • You do not drive more than 11 consecutive hours 
  • The complete trip, including drop-off/loading does not take more than 14 hours  
  • You start from and return to the same location within 12 hours  
  • You take a minimum of 10 hours off between shifts 
  • You take a minimum of 30 minutes off-duty after driving for 8 hours  

Adverse Driving Conditions

Drivers may invoke an emergency measure to add 2 hours of driving time to their RODs. This is typically invoked in emergency periods such as catastrophic weather, snow, heavy fog, or accident-related traffic issues. Adverse Driving Conditions exemptions do not apply to personal emergencies, predictable delays (normal traffic), or conditions known at the time of departure.  

June 1st, 2020: HOS Changes Effective September 29th, 2020

Changes to the HOS regulation, known as the Final Rule, take effect from September 29, 2020. These were first published on June 1st 

  • Short Haul Exception – The Short-haul exception radius is updated from 100 to 100 air-miles. Drivers can spend 14 hours on duty instead of 12. Drivers must still return to point of origin within 12 hours.  
  • Adverse Driving Conditions Exception – Drivers can expect the adverse driving conditions window up to an additional 2 hours 
  • Break Requirement – Drivers are no longer required to take a 30-minute break after 8 hours of being On Duty. Instead, drivers are required to take a 30-minute break after 8 hours Driving.  
  • Sleeper Berth Provision – Drivers may split sleeper berth provisions to 7/3. The minimum number of hours for the long rest is now set at 7 hours. The total minimum break remains at least 10 hours. Neither qualifying period counts against the 14-hour on-duty window.

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