Driving is a tough job and requires consistent focus to avoid accidents and HOS violations.
To ensure road safety and driver compliance, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), developed hours of service rules and regulations. These regulations are commonly known as HOS rules.
HOS rules limit the number of hours a driver can operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). In this post we’ll provide a recap of the three major HOS rules and four important HOS exemptions that every driver and fleet manager should know.
The 3 Major HOS Rules — A Brief Recap
The 14-Hour Rule
The 14-hour rule prohibits a property-carrying driver from operating a commercial motor vehicle after being on-duty for 14 consecutive hours. Other non-driving duties may still be performed after the 14th hour.
For passenger-carrying drivers, the driving window is 15 hours. Similar to the 14-hour rule, a driver cannot operate a CMV after being on duty for 15 consecutive hours, but he or she can still complete other non-driving tasks.
The 11-Hour Rule
Within the 14-hour window, a property-carrying driver can drive a maximum of 11 hours.
For passenger-carrying vehicles, the driving limit is 10 hours.
The 30-Minute Break Rule
The 30-minute break rule states that a property-carrying driver must take a 30-minute break after every 8 hours of on-duty time to legally drive a CMV. Lunch breaks and off-duty time can qualify as a driver’s 30-minute break.
Although a driver cannot operate a CMV without taking a 30-minute break, other non-driving tasks may still be performed.
Passenger-carrying drivers are not required to take a 30-minute break.
Now that we’ve covered the basic HOS rules, let’s take a look at the major HOS exceptions.
HOS Exemption #1: The 30-Minute Break Exception
As per DOT regulations, a driver must take a 30-minute break after any 8 consecutive hour period spent on-duty to continue operating a CMV, but there are two categories of drivers that are exempt from this rule.
Who is exempt from the 30-minute break rule?
Local drivers who qualify for the 100 air-mile radius provision are exempt from the 30-minute break rule.
Additionally, drivers who qualify for the 150 air-mile radius provision and operate non-CDL vehicles are exempt from the 30-minute break rule.
Qualifying for the 100 air-mile radius or the 150 air-mile radius provisions
To qualify as a 100 air-mile radius driver or 150 air-mile radius driver certain requirements must be met, which are outlined in Section 395. 1 (e).
HOS Exemption #2: The 16-Hour Short-Haul Exception
According to HOS regulations, a driver typically has a 14-hour window to complete all driving duties. However, under the short-haul exception that 14-hour window can be extended to a 16-hour window when certain conditions are met.
Who qualifies for the short-haul exemption?
Only drivers who qualify for the 100 air-mile radius provision or the 150 air-mile radius provision are eligible for the short-haul exception and can extend the 14-hour driving window to 16-hours.
How does the exemption work for 100 air-mile radius drivers?
If you are a driver who falls under the 100 air-mile radius provision, you are allowed to have one 16-hour driving window per week or after every 34-hour restart.
How does the exemption work for 150 air-mile radius drivers?
If you are a driver who falls under the 150 air-mile radius provision, you are allowed to have two 16-hour driving periods per week or after any 34-hour restart.
Time Records vs. Record of Duty Status (RODS)
Drivers who qualify for the 100 air-mile radius or the 150 air-mile radius provision can use time records in place of Records of Duty Status (RODS). However, on days when the the 16-hour exception is applied, the driver is required to maintain a Record of Duty Status.
HOS Exemption #3: Adverse Driving Conditions
The ‘adverse driving conditions’ exemption allows drivers to extend the maximum driving limit by two hours when certain conditions are met.
When is the adverse driving conditions exemption applicable?
This exemption only works when the adverse driving conditions could not have been known before the start of a drive. Circumstances include weather changes, such as unexpected fog, snow, or the closure of a road due to unforeseen events, like an accident.
When is the adverse driving conditions exemption not applicable?
The exemption is not 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 would not meet the conditions necessary for application of this exemption.
How does the adverse driving conditions exemption affect 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 does not extend the 14-hour driving window. As such, all 13 hours of driving must still be completed within the 14-hour shift.
How does the adverse driving conditions exemption affect 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 does not extend the 15-hour driving window for passenger-carrying drivers. As such, all 12 hours of driving must still be completed within the 15-hour window.
HOS Exemption #4: Emergency Conditions
A CMV driver has to comply with all HOS rules and regulations to avoid HOS violations and fines. However, in the case of an emergency situation, certain hours of service rules are temporarily lifted.
Who is exempt under the emergency conditions exception?
Motor carriers and drivers providing direct relief to and/or from areas covered by emergency declarations are exempt from the HOS rules.
How to know when the emergency conditions exemption is applicable?
Emergency conditions are declared by the President, state governors, and/or the FMCSA. If an official federal or state institution has not acknowledged an emergency state, the exemption is not applicable.
This is why it is highly recommended to check-in with federal and/or state officials before using the emergency conditions exception.
Drivers and fleet managers should know these 4 HOS exemptions. When these exemptions are used properly they can help your fleet avoid HOS violations.