The Ultimate Guide to Hours of Service Regulations

On 9/29/2020, commercial drivers across the USA will enjoy some welcome flexibility, courtesy of the newly-revised Hours of Service rules set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

When it comes to the HOS Final Rule, there are four main considerations:

  1. Short-Haul Exception  (§395.1(e)(1)) 
  2. Adverse Driving Conditions Exception (§395.3(a)(2)) 
  3. 30-Minute Break Requirement (§395.3(a)(3)(ii))
  4. Sleeper Berth Provision(§395.1(g)) 

Read on for all the particulars when it comes to these key areas of the HOS regulations in 49CFR Part 395.

Short-Haul Exception & Electronic Logging Devices/Logbooks

The short & sweet version?

The maximum allowable workday under the short-haul exception is getting bumped from 12 to 14 hours. Additionally, the distance a driver may operate is also extending — from a 100 to 150 air-mile radius.

And a bit of the nitty-gritty:

Under the short-haul exception, “the motor carrier must record the driver’s time in, time out and total number of hours per day.”  And this time log must include the total time for the 7 preceding days. These records must be maintained for 6 months.

Here’s where you need to pay close attention:

Under this short-haul exception, drivers are permitted to keep a time record instead of recording time in a graph grid or with an ELD.

Adverse Driving Conditions Exception

The short & sweet version?

The 2-hour extension from the previous HOS regulation now applies to both the driving limit and the on-duty limit.

And a bit of the nitty-gritty:

Additionally, we now have an expanded definition of adverse driving conditions that now considers the role of the driver:


“Adverse driving conditions means snow, ice, sleet, fog, or other adverse weather conditions or unusual road or traffic conditions that were not known, or could not reasonably be known, to: 

  • a driver immediately prior to beginning the duty day or immediately before beginning driving after a qualifying rest break or sleeper berth period, or 
  • a motor carrier immediately prior to dispatching the driver”

Here’s where you need to pay close attention:

There are a couple of differences to note between property carriers and passenger carriers. Under the adverse driving conditions exception, property carriers can drive up to 13 hours within a 16-hour driving window. Passenger carriers can drive up to 12 hours within a 17-hour on-duty period.

30-Minute Break Requirement

The short & sweet version?

Under the old rule, 30-minute breaks could only be satisfied during an off-duty time or in the sleeper berth for a period of 8 hours on duty. Now, the new rule specifies that the 30-minute break can be satisfied by these two and additionally, on-duty time not driving. 

Here’s where you need to pay close attention:

The new rule prohibits drivers from driving more than 8 hours without at least a 30-minute break but does all the break to be taken on-duty

Sleeper Berth Provision

The short & sweet version?

Drivers now may split up their 10-hour off-duty period into two periods. 

And a bit of the nitty-gritty:

  • One off-duty period must consist of a minimum of 7 hours in the sleeper berth.
  • One off-duty period must last at least 2 hours.
  • Both must add to a minimum of 10 hours.
  • An 8-hour sleeper-berth period by itself can no longer be excluded from the 14-hour driving window.

Here’s where you need to pay close attention:

This applies to property-carrying drivers, not passenger-carrying drivers

Will the Changes Affect My ELD?

From a regulatory perspective, the FMCSA states that:

“The minimum requirements in the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) final rule do not require ELDs to identify hours of service violations.”*

When it comes to your telematics solution and ELD hardware, consult your provider to learn more about whether you’ll be affected in any way. 

However, if you are currently interested in exploring the benefits of a best-in-class solution, consult with one of our expert Fleet Advisors about how you can save your fleet time and money with telematics-based fleet maintenance management. 

* FMCSA-MCE-20-004 June 2020