HOS cheat sheet: 6 Hours of Service rules to avoid violations

HOS cheat sheet: 6 Hours of Service rules to avoid violations

  • A failed roadside inspection can put your driver or vehicle out of service
  • Since the ELD mandate took effect, HOS violations have dropped sharply
  • A robust ELD solution can help keep your drivers in compliance

Commercial vehicles are subject to regular inspections. If the driver or vehicle is out of compliance in some way, the driver or fleet could be subject to a written warning or a fine. If the issue is serious enough, the driver or vehicle can be immediately placed out of service.

In 2019, state and federal agencies performed nearly 3.5 million roadside inspections, and nearly 21 percent of vehicles were placed out of service. Until recently, Record of Duty Status (general form and manner) was by far the most common kind of violation, accounting for about 17 percent of all violations in 2015 through 2017.

In 2018, this category accounted for only 8 percent of violations, and in 2019, only 6 percent. Furthermore, 2019 was the first time that RODS general form and manner violations fell from the number one position (down to number four).

What happened? ELDs.

Hours of Service 

No fleet wants a vehicle or driver to be placed out of service. Smart fleet managers and owner-operators understand what to expect in a roadside inspection and how to be prepared. A comprehensive fleet management solution keeps you one step ahead of inspections and helps you avoid the costly consequences of a failed inspection.

HOS: No longer the number one violation

Hours of service violations were the principal reason for the ELD mandate, which required commercial drivers to keep a Record of Duty Status to switch from paper logs to an electronic logging device by December 2017. A driver should be familiar with HOS restrictions, but should also be able to rely on a good ELD system that alerts them before a violation occurs.

Avoiding violations can save a fleet time and money. Your drivers can stay up-to-date with our HOS Cheat Sheet.

1. Know your cycle

Driving cycles depend on how many days of the week your carrier operates. If your carrier operates every day of the week, you are eligible to operate under the 70-hour/8-day cycle, which limits a driver to 70 on-duty hours over any 8-day period.

If your carrier operates for fewer than 7 days in a week, you are eligible to operate under the 60-hour/7-day cycle, which limits a driver to 60 on-duty hours over any 7-day window.

These limitations are based on a “rolling” or “floating” 7 or 8-day period, so as not to constrict your fleet to a Sunday through Saturday schedule that may not apply to your business needs.

2. Restart your drive cycle

If you want to completely refresh your driving cycle, you must take 34 consecutive hours off-duty. The 34-hour restart rule went through some back and forth when it was originally passed, but this is the most up-to-date requirement for a restart and the only one you need to follow.

And yes, even if you have not worked the full 60 to 70 hour work week, once you take a 34-hour restart all of your hours are made available again.

3. The 14-hour rule

When a driver comes on-duty after taking at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty, he or she has a 14-hour window to complete driving for the day. Although driving is not permitted after the 14th hour, other work-related tasks may still be performed.

4. The 11-hour rule

Within the 14-hour driving window, you are allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours. Those extra 3 hours account for all of the other work-related duties that are possible in a day’s work (waiting to be unloaded, contacting dispatch, etc.). Just be sure you don’t drive more than 11 of your 14 hour day.

5. The 30-minute break

No driving is allowed after any 8-hour on-duty period until a driver has taken the mandatory 30-minute off-duty break. The FMCSA does not enforce the 30-minute off-duty break for any driver who qualifies for the short-haul operations exceptions and a select few others.

Further Reading:- The Complete Guide to Canada Hours of Service Rules

6. Split sleeper berth

The split sleeper berth allows drivers to split the required 10-hour off-duty break into two shifts. One of those shifts must be between 8-10 hours, spent entirely in the sleeper. The second shift can be between 2-8 hours and completed in the sleeper berth, off-duty, or as a combination of sleeper berth and off-duty.

Regardless of the order in which a driver takes these breaks, successful completion of both will give the driver a new 11-hour drive time and 14-hour driving window, which begins after completion of the first qualifying break.

Sleeper berth extension

The sleeper berth extension allows drivers to extend their 14-hour window without taking the required 10 hours off-duty. By logging at least 8 hours (but no more than 10 hours) in the sleeper berth, a driver can effectively freeze the 14-hour clock.

Safety for the future

These seven rules cover the major HOS rules for property-carrying vehicles. Familiarizing yourself with the HOS basics can help you curb fines and keep your fleet out of trouble. Even the implementation of driver workflow support can help, but staying knowledgeable about potential policy changes is just as important.

The FMCSA published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in August of 2019, and it’s commenting period ended in October 2019. The industry is waiting on word from the FMCSA on whether or not the following modifications will go into effect:

  • A short-haul exception that lengthens on-duty max from 12 to 14 hours and extends distance limit from 100 to 150 miles for select commercial drivers
  • A modification to the Adverse Driving Conditions Exception offering an extra 2 hours to the amount of permitted driving
  • Expanded flexibility for the 30-minute break rule allowing a driver to use on-duty, not driving status, rather than off-duty to satisfy the break
  • An alteration to the sleeper-berth exception allowing a driver to split the required 10-hours off into two periods
  • The right to one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but a maximum of 3 hours, that pauses a driver’s 14-hour window with the knowledge that said driver takes 10 uninterrupted hours off-duty at the end of their shift

As you ready your fleet for the challenges ahead, it’s a good idea to take ownership of fleet compliance in the present. Be sure to stay connected here at KeepTruckin for the latest HOS updates and tips on successful compliance.

Disclaimer: All content and information on this website is for informational and educational purposes only, does not constitute financial, business, or legal advice. Although KeepTruckin strives to provide accurate general information, the information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice, and you should not rely solely on this information. Always consult a professional in the area for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any professional, legal, business and financial or tax-related decisions.

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Michael Garza

Michael Garza is a transportation industry veteran, with expertise in compliance and insurance risks. He's also an arts & education journalist, and a published poet. He lives, works, and pursues higher education in Chicago.

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