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How Many Hours Can a Truck Driver Drive?

There is something about pulling long hours on the open road that leads to a sense of freedom. However, commercial truck drivers need to be aware of how long a CDL driver can drive. Without taking the proper breaks, an exhausted trucker can be a danger to themselves and others on the road.

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has put regulations into place that allow drivers to drive for 11 hours before needing to take a 10-hour break. These Hours of Service (HOS) rules also require drivers to log their driving time.

What Are the Hours of Service Rules?

The Hours of Service regulations are enforced by a branch of DOT called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The regulations specify how many hours a truck driver can drive for and how long the driver can participate in non-driving work.

8-Hour Rule

A trucker who has driven for 8 consecutive hours must take at least a 30-minute break before driving again.

For example, if Steve begins driving Monday at 6am, then he must take a 30-minute break at 2pm.

11-Hour Rule

After taking a 10-hour break, a driver can’t drive more than 11 hours within a 14-hour window. It’s important to note that those 11 hours can’t be driven consecutively because of the 8-hour rule.

After driving 8 hours and taking a 30-minute break, Steve resumed driving Monday at 2:30pm. Steve can only drive until 5:30 to avoid going over 11 hours before he needs to take a 10-hour break.

14-Hour Rule

The length of the workday can be a maximum of 14 hours long. After 14 hours, even if the driver hasn’t driven 11 hours, they must rest for at least 10 hours before they can drive again. The 14-hour clock begins once the driver does any kind of work, not just driving. The 14 hours also doesn’t stop if the trucker takes a break. The only thing that will reset the 14-hour limit is a 10-hour break.

Below is an outline of what Steve’s day might look like following the 14-hour rule.

  • Start the day at 6am
  • Drive for 8 hours until 2pm
  • Take a 30-minute break until 2:30pm
  • Drive from 2:30pm to 4:30pm
  • Take an extra break to eat dinner from 4:30-6pm
  • Steve only has one more hour he can drive without going over the 11-hour rule, so he drives from 6-7pm and reaches his destination
  • Unload the truck until 8pm when his 14 hour working period is over
  • Rest for 10 hours

70-Hour Rule

A driver can’t be on duty for 70 hours in 8 consecutive days. At the end of the 8-day period, a trucker must take at least 34 hours off duty before driving again.

For example, if Steve begins working at 6am on Sunday, then his working period ends on Monday at 6am as long as Steve hasn’t worked over 70 hours in this period. To begin a new work period, Steve has to take at least a 34-hour break. This means that if his work period ended Sunday at 6am, he can resume working again on Monday at 4pm.

Are There Any Exceptions?

There are a few exceptions to regulations around how many hours a truck driver can drive for. It’s up to truckers to understand these exceptions and know when they apply.

    • Bad Weather: If there is bad weather and driving conditions are poor, then it can take a trucker extra time to find a safe place to get off the road. The 14-hour rule still applies, but if the weather is bad then a trucker can take an extra two hours to find a safe area to stop.
    • Same location: If the trucker has a one-day assignment that starts and ends at the same location, then they can work 16 hours. The actual driving time though is still under the 11-hour rule. This exception doesn’t apply if there is a layover, and it can only be used once in a period before a 34-hour break is required.
  • Short haul: Drivers may be exempt from keeping logs if they only work within a 150 air-mile radius and return to their terminal within 14 hours.
  • Emergency assistance: Under a federal or state emergency declaration, drivers can complete their runs to deliver emergency assistance.
  • Yard moves:  When driving in a limited-access lot, truckers can perform the driving in an on-duty status instead of a driving status.
  • Personal conveyance: If the driver is using the truck for personal transportation, then they are exempt from HOS regulations.

What Are Daily Driver’s Logs?

In order to comply with HOS regulations, truckers must complete a daily driver’s log. These logs are regularly inspected, so drivers must accurately record all 24 hours of the day. Usually, electronic logs in the truck will capture driving time automatically, but non-driving time needs to be recorded by the driver. There are several different categories to know when filling out a lot.

  • Off duty: Not driving or performing any kind of work. The trucker is pursuing their personal interests, such as meal stops, time at home, or relaxing at a truck stop.
  • Sleeper Berth: All the time spent resting in the sleeper berth must be recorded.
  • Driving: Controlling a CMV, including driving or sitting in traffic.
  • On duty but not driving:  Time spent physically loading or unloading the truck, conducting inspections, training, or refueling.

Who Has to Comply With These Regulations?

Anyone who drives a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) between states must comply with the regulations set by DOT.

A CMV is defined as a truck or trailer that:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combined weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Transports enough hazardous materials to require placards

Team drivers must also follow the HOS regulations since the rules for team drivers are the same as the rules for solo drivers.

If a trucker is transporting cargo in only one state, then the HOS regulations don’t apply. However, there are regulations that each state has put in place. Drivers must understand and follow the state laws.

What Are the Penalties?

If a driver violates the HOS rules, they may be placed out of service and fined for the violation. The trucker’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) score also may be impacted.

These regulations have been put in place to protect truckers and the people on the road with them. Penalties ensure that trucking companies and drivers are keeping safety as the top priority.

Conclusion

Strict regulations have been put in place to avoid fatigued driving and keep drivers safe. How many hours a truck driver can drive for is closely monitored by DOT. Matheson gives drivers the tools to be a safe and compliant driver. If you are interested in a trucking career, and you have at least one year of Class A driving experience, visit our careers page now.

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