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What Are Hours of Service (HOS)? How Do I Track Them?

If you are just learning about HOS and driving regulations, you may be feeling overwhelmed. This article breaks down each of the HOS regulations and provides real-world examples to help you make sense of it all.

What Are Hours of Service (HOS)?

The HOS regulation is a way for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to monitor the working hours of drivers operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in the United States. HOS regulations help ensure overall road safety by governing the number of hours that truck drivers can drive and work. In general, HOS rules regulate the maximum number of hours that can be driven, specify mandatory break times and off times, and duty cycles.

How Does It Work?

The HOS regulation presents several driving limits that truck drivers must follow, specifically:

  • 14-Hour workday “driving window” limit

  • 11-Hour driving limit

  • 10 consecutive off-duty hours before workday restart

  • 60-hour/7-day and 70-hour/8-day limits

  • 34 consecutive off-duty hours before workweek restart

*An exemption for short-haul drivers does exist. To learn more about this short-haul (under 150 air-mile radius) exemption please visit FMCSA’s website here.

14-Hour Workday Limit (Property Carrying Vehicles)

The 14-Hour workday limit means that once a driver comes back ON-Duty, after 10 consecutive hours of OFF-Duty time, that driver cannot work beyond 14 consecutive hours.

This workday limit is the total number of hours a driver can work in a day and is designed to prevent driver fatigue. It consists of driving, on-duty time, various work breaks, and rest limits.

*There are certain exceptions to the HOS regulation that extend driving and workday hours such as the Adverse Conditions rule which extends a driver's time up to 2 hours. See FMCSA to learn more.

11-Hour Driving Limit

Within the 14-Hour workday, truck drivers are only permitted to drive their truck for a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours of OFF-Duty time. This means they cannot drive for more than 11 hours in a day without a long break of OFF-Duty time. A driver cannot drive for more than 8 hours before being required to take a 30-minute break, but the driver could have been on-duty for more than 8 hours.

60/70-Hour Limit and the 34-Hour Restart

The 60/70-Hour limit governs how many hours a truck driver can work in a given week before taking an extended rest period (sort of like a mandated weekend) before being allowed to restart. This limit is based on a rolling 7-day (or 8-day) period. In short, drivers have a limited number of hours they can be ON-Duty per week. Drivers cannot drive after they have reached 60 hours of ON-Duty time in 7 consecutive days (or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days).

The 60/70-hour limits will reset after a driver has taken 34 hours of consecutive OFF-duty time. This reset period of 34 hours can be done at any time, just so long as the work hours do not exceed 60 hours.

Consecutive OFF-Duty Time

Once a driver has worked a total of 60 hours in the past 7 days, for example, they have hit their limit. They must be OFF-Duty for a consecutive 34 hours in order to work again. This is also referred to as the 34- hour reset or 34-hour restart.

Drivers must have a certain number of non-working/off hours within a 24-hour time period to give them a rest from driving and other miscellaneous tasks. Drivers can do their OFF-duty time in the sleeper berth, in a hotel, at home, or other areas outside of actual work. The sleeper berth refers to the cab in the back of the truck which can contain a bed, desk, TV, and fridge. They can drive while OFF-Duty for personal conveyance, but not for any work-related tasks such as fueling the vehicle or taking it to the mechanic.

Rest time is the required break for a CMV driver after a certain number of hours worked. For example, if a property-carrying driver drives 8 continuous hours, he or she is required to take a 30-minute break.

This is not something that is optional for the drivers, rather this is a mandatory break they must take. Breaks can be logged as either OFF-Duty time or can be taken as time in the sleeper-berth (SB), at the side of the road, truck stop, restaurant, or other legal rest area.

Average Driving Distances

A commercial driver can typically cover 500-700 miles per day in an 11-hour driving shift. This estimate assumes that a driver is averaging 45-65 miles per hour. This number can vary greatly depending on the driver’s capabilities, construction, road conditions, traffic jams, and even the type of freight being hauled.

Real-World Examples

Woahhh! We know that is a lot of information to take in.

Let’s walk through a few real-world examples to help you make sense of the regulations.

Example 1:

Let’s start off with a single day trip example.

A driver starts his workday at 7AM driving to a pickup location, arrives at 8AM, and begins driving again at 9AM after getting his truck loaded. The driver has now used 2 hours of his 14-hour workday and 1 hour of his 11-hour drive time. The driver then drives another 8 consecutive hours and takes his mandatory 30-minute break. The driver has now used 10.5 hours of his 14-hour workday and 9 hours of his 11-hour drive time. The driver then drives 1 more hour to his destination and unloads at the dock for 2 hours. The driver’s total drive time is 10 hours, and his total workday is 13.5 hours. He is within HOS regulations. The driver would still have 30 minutes of drive/on-duty time to potentially pick up another load, but it is unlikely to source a load, drive to the pickup location, and get loaded all within 30 minutes. It may be a better choice for that driver to find a fuel station or position himself closer to an area that is ideal for picking up another load the next morning.

Example 2:

Let’s say a driver shows up for a pickup appointment in Detroit, MI at 7AM EST on Monday. He started his workday at 6AM and drove 1 hour to get to the shipper’s location. His equipment is a 53’ dry van and the freight could be described as simple as a full truckload of palletized packaging products. The shipper takes 1 hour to load the driver and the driver is ready to start driving again at 8AM EST.

The receiver of the product in Sacramento, CA needs the load to deliver no later than 4PM PST on Thursday. After getting loaded at the shipper, the driver has about 2,300 miles to drive to the receiver and he still has 10 hours of drive time left and 12 hours of a workday left. Averaging 65 miles per hour, the driver should be able to drive 650 miles on Monday with a 30-minute break after 8 continuous hours of driving. After 10 hours of consecutive off-duty time, the driver can begin driving again on Tuesday morning and the same for Wednesday morning. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the driver should be able to drive a full 11-hours each day with his regular breaks. The driver averages 65 miles per hour and drives 715 miles each day.

Let’s look at how far the driver has driven by the end of Wednesday evening:

650 on Monday + 715 on Tuesday + 715 on Wednesday = 2,080 total miles.

The driver must still drive another 220 miles to get to the receiver location in Sacramento, CA. Will he be able to make it to the receiver before 4PM PST on Thursday?

The driver takes his 10-hour consecutive off-duty break overnight on Wednesday and can start driving again at 7AM PST. Averaging 65 miles per hour, the driver should be able to get to the receiver location in just under 3.5 hours. This means that the driver should arrive in Sacramento, CA around 10:30AM PST and will spend 1 hour at the receiver’s location getting unloaded. That should leave the driver with 7.5 hours of drive time and 9.5 hours of the workday to secure another shipment.

But does the driver have enough time left in his work week to pickup another load? Let’s do the math!

Let’s assume the driver is planning to work 60 hours in a 7-day period rather than 70 hours in an 8-day period and all 30-minute breaks are considered on-duty.

Monday – 11 hours of drive time + 1 hour loading + 30 minutes fueling + 30 minutes on break = 13-hour workday

Tuesday – 11 hours of drive time + 30 minutes on break = 11.5-hour workday

Wednesday – 11 hours of drive time + 30 minutes fueling + 30 minutes on break = 12-hour workday

Thursday – 3.5 hours of drive time + 1 hour unloading = 4.5 hours

The driver has worked a total of 41 hours this week. The driver still has a total of 19 hours left in his 60-hour workweek to pick up (and possibly deliver) another load before his mandated 34-hour reset.

Please keep in mind that these examples do not include any off-duty breaks besides the mandatory 10 hours. Driver's should take as many off-duty breaks as needed.

There are countless situations and scenarios with logging hours. Please be sure to review the HOS regulation at FMCSA. HOS examples can be viewed here.

In the list below, the FMCSA reports some of the most common violations cited in the HOS category.

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Soshaul Logistics LLC and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. It is meant to serve as a guide and information only and Soshaul Logistics, LLC does not assume responsibility for any omissions, errors, or ambiguity contained herein. Contents may not be relied upon as a substitute for the FMCSA's published regulations. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction or operation.


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