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DOT Hours of Service (HOS) Rules: A Guide for Truck Drivers

Kate Feyrer

The trucking industry poses inherent risks, with massive loads of 48,000 pounds hurtling down the highway at speeds of 65 miles per hour. It is crucial to closely monitor this activity. Consequently, various systems are in place to ensure that individuals behind the wheel of each truck are well-rested, tested, and operating safely. But how is this monitoring achieved?

Table of Contents
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  • What Constitutes Hours of Service in the Trucking Industry?

As a shipper, you may have encountered the term “Hours of Service” (HOS) in discussions about your freight. Yet, what does it entail? How is it supervised? And, most importantly, how does it affect your financial outcomes? Understanding the Hours of Service rules is vital for both truck drivers and shippers, as it establishes the maximum hours a truck driver can drive before taking a break, ensuring they are not fatigued on the road.

The “trucker clock,” a colloquial term for the hours of service regulations, acts as a safeguard against driver fatigue and promotes road safety. Truck drivers must adhere to these regulations to prevent accidents caused by exhaustion or impaired alertness.

In essence, the dot driving hours refer to the hours of service guidelines set by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Shippers and trucking companies must be well-versed in these regulations to optimize logistics planning and maintain compliance with legal requirements. By understanding how many hours a truck driver can drive within the stipulated timeframes, stakeholders in the trucking industry can ensure a balance between operational efficiency and safety on the roads.

What Constitutes Hours of Service in the Trucking Industry?

Hours of Service (HOS) refer to governmental regulations that prescribe the maximum allowable working hours for truck drivers in a single day. These regulations are set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a specialized branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation dedicated to overseeing the trucking industry.

Within the framework of their guidelines, the FMCSA employs Hours of Service to regulate various aspects of a driver’s daily schedule, including:

  • Total amount of drive time
  • Number and duration of breaks

The FMCSA’s HOS regulations governing the duration of a driver’s daily drive time are delineated as follows:

  • 11-Hour Driving Limit: A driver is restricted from driving for more than 11 hours within a 24-hour period. Moreover, preceding shifts of this duration, a trucker must observe a consecutive 10-hour break period.
  • 14-Hour Limit: Drivers transporting any type of freight are prohibited from being actively “on duty” for more than 14 hours in a single day. This 14-hour limit encompasses all breaks, traffic-related delays, driving periods, and rest intervals experienced by a driver while on duty.
  • 60/70-Hour Limit: This restriction stipulates that a driver is prohibited from continuing to drive once they have surpassed 60 hours of drive time within seven days or 70 hours within eight days. To resume being “on duty,” drivers must observe a consecutive 34-hour break.

Number and Duration of Breaks: Beyond regulating daily drive time, the FMCSA’s HOS guidelines also delineate the number, duration, and frequency of breaks for truckers, as outlined below:

  • 30-Minute Driving Break: After accumulating 8 hours of driving time, a driver must take a 30-minute break unless they have already done so during a previous non-driving period. This break can be fulfilled through on-duty non-driving periods of any kind, provided they last for 30 consecutive minutes (e.g., waiting to be loaded, sitting in a parking lot, etc.).
  • 10-Hour Consecutive Break: Each 11-hour driving period must be preceded by a 10-hour consecutive break period.
  • 34-Hour Break: Following any period of 60/70 hours of driving within 7/8 consecutive days, every driver must actively take a 34-hour break, unless they are operating on “recap hours,” details of which can be explored further here.