The FMCSA’s HOS Regulations: A Quick Refresher Course

The FMCSA’s HOS (Hours of Service) regulations are complicated. Find out what you need to know right now to stay compliant.

If your business operates Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs), you could be required to complete Hours of Service (HOS) per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Generally, you’re mandated to track your driver’s HOS if your business employs the use of a CMV that is used to engage in interstate commerce and fits any of the following:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more.
  • Is designed or used to transport, without compensation, 16 or more passengers (including the driver).
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation.
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards.

The Hours of Service requirement is the culmination of increased government regulations to promote safety and environmental accountability on the roads. The Hours of Service of Drivers Final Rule became effective on February 27, 2012, but was originally published December 27, 2011. The official compliance date was July 1, 2013. While there have been minor modifications along the way, the ELD mandate added an additional level of compliance for completing HOS. The use of telematics software designed to automatically record HOS has become the standard as well as the rule for fleet managers across industries. 

How to Legally Document Hours of Service for Fleets

When your drivers are documenting their HOS, per FMCSA guidelines, depending on the cargo they’re carrying, there are differences in the requirements for reporting. The difference lies in whether they are carrying passengers or property. Drivers are required to log their status as on duty, off duty driving or Sleeper Berth.

  • Off Duty – the driver is not performing work duties.
  • Sleeper Berth -the driver is resting or sleeping inside their cab. 
  • On Duty – the driver is performing work duties, but isn’t driving, for example, they may be fueling, inspecting, or unloading.
  • Driving – the driver is driving to perform work duties.

Take note of the following rules for documenting HOS for both CMV operators carrying passengers and those carrying property:

Passenger-Carrying Drivers

  • Can drive a maximum of 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
  • May not drive after having been on duty for 15 hours, following 8 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time is not included in the 15-hour period.
  • May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.
  • Drivers using a sleeper berth must take at least 8 hours in the sleeper berth, and may split the sleeper berth time into two periods provided neither is less than 2 hours.

Property-Carrying Drivers

  • There is an 11-Hour Driving Limit. Drivers are only permitted to drive 11 hours at a time, with a minimum of 10 consecutive hours at off-duty status.
  • Drivers are not to operate the CMV beyond the 14th consecutive hour, following the 10 consecutive hours off duty after returning to on duty status. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
  • Operators may drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since their last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes.
  • Operators are not to drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver also may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty. 
  • Drivers can use the sleeper berth status to take at least 8 consecutive hours in off-duty status. They can also get an additional 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.

34-Hour Driver Restart Rule

In addition to the status update requirements for documenting HOS, there is the 34-Hour Driver Restart rule. This addition to the HOS regulations for CMV operators was enacted in 2017 as a way to allow drivers to reset their work week more quickly in the event that they are close to clearing the maximum allowed weekly hours in ‘On Duty’ or ‘Driving’ statuses. The allowance is 70 hours in eight days or 60 hours in seven days. The rule allows drivers to press reset by taking a break for 34 consecutive hours in either ‘Off Duty’ or ‘Sleeper Berth’ status.

This addition to the HOS regulation is actually not a mandatory requirement, but a general guideline for fleet managers and owners to reduce fatigue-related fatalities and accidents caused by exhaustion. The FMCSA conducted a study to help them to discover the ideal amount of time for drivers to take rest breaks while still considering the need for productivity for trucking companies. Their studies revealed that 34 hours is the optimal amount of time for drivers to take a break. Initially, the suggestion was 24 hours, but they found that this amount of time was not flexible enough for trucking companies to schedule appropriate breaks. The FMCSA stands on the 34-hour rule as a way to ensure that drivers are rested and ready to carry out their work duties safely. 

Exceptions to HOS Regulation Rules

Understanding HOS rules and regulations is important, but there are also exceptions to consider when managing and tracking your drivers. The intricacies of this process requires intelligent technology built to handle both your driver statuses and track CMV diagnostics. Some important exceptions to the basic rules of HOS are included below. 

The Adverse Driving Condition Exception 

This consideration gives drivers the option to extend their drive time by two hours in the event of adverse weather conditions. Conditions related to weather like heavy snow and dense fog are formidable reasons to use the Adverse Driving Condition exception to prevent safety issues en route. This consideration is also to document significant traffic delays due to traffic incidents or construction that can impact the driver’s commute.

  • In the event that a driver cannot safely complete their duties within the maximum allowed driving time of 11 hours, then they may drive up to an additional two hours to reach their destination. Drivers are still subject to the maximum 14 hours in on duty status.
  • If conditions do not permit a driver to pull over and stop for 10 hours off-duty, then the driver may extend their drive time up to two hours.
  • If a driver can complete their duties within the 11-hour drive time, they must do so, only in the event that they can’t make it back to their home terminal within 14 hours.

16-Hour Exception

The 16- Hour exception is a consideration meant to allow for an extension of on duty hours for a round trip route. The 16-Hour rules states that a driver on a one-day work schedule can be on duty for 16 hours if the driver begins and ends at the same terminal. However, there are further rules to this exceptions, they specify that:

  • Time in ‘Driving’ status may not exceed 11 hours.
  • If the driver has a layover on any work day, the 16-hour exception can’t be used—this includes any layovers.
  • Drivers cannot employ the 16-hour exception and the Adverse Driving Conditions exception together.
  • After using the 16-hour exception, drivers may not use it again until they have had a 34-hour reset.
  • Drivers may not drive past the 16th hour when moving to on-duty status.

Penalties for Violating HOS Regulations

Violations for fleet management companies and their drivers for not properly documenting HOS can be quite severe. Ignoring the rules can cost you and your drivers money and tarnish your business reputation. Common penalties include:

  • Drivers without mandated HOS documentation can be placed on shut down (at roadside) until they have logged enough off-duty time to be in compliance.
  • Fines may be imposed by local and state enforcement officials.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration can issue civil penalties on a driver or carrier, ranging from $1,000 to $11,000 per violation.
  • Your safety rating can be downgraded for repeat violations.
  • Federal criminal penalties can be issued against carriers who knowingly and willfully allow or require violations; or against drivers who knowingly and willfully violate the regulations.

HOS Regulation Rules to Remember

Managing the HOS regulations surrounding your drivers and their work week can be quite daunting. This is why smart fleet managers and owners are employing telematics software to manage their drivers. Here are some rules to guide you on the most important points to track per HOS regulations:

  • Each driver shift must begin with at least 10 hours off-duty.
  • Drivers can only perform 60 hours on-duty over seven consecutive days or 70 hours over eight days. It is mandatory to maintain a driver’s log for seven days and eight days after, respectively.
  • Drivers can only be on duty for up to 14 hours following 10 hours off duty and are limited to 11 hours of driving time.
  • A mandatory 30-minute break must be taken by their eighth hour of coming on duty.
  • The 14-hour duty period may not be extended with off-duty time for breaks, meals, fuel stops, etc.

Getting the Most out of HOS Tracking 

Using quality technology to track your drivers HOS is important in several ways for your fleet. From the CMVs your drivers operate, to the fuel used to power their engines, everything impacts the bottom line of your business. Fleet management technology helps you to track and manage your business from a convenient dashboard with plenty of tools to keep your fleet running smoothly. Using fleet management technology can help you to:

  • Accurately track your driver’s statuses in real-time.
  • Plan routes and dispatch drivers to avoid violations.
  • Collect CMV diagnostic information with real-time insights on vehicle performance.
  • Improve HOS tracking with real-time insights into your drivers’ statuses.

The ELD mandate requires fleet managers and owners to record HOS via certified telematics software. Partnering with an industry leader in fleet telematics is your responsibility as you manage the operations of your fleet. Our expert Fleet Advisors are available to answer any questions that you may have about complying with the FMCSA’s ELD Mandate and HOS regulation requirements. Take our Fleet Assessment to determine your needs for fleet management technology.