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Hours of Service Frequently Asked Questions

Changes to the federal hours of service requirements can make it difficult to keep up with your responsibilities as a motor carrier. Whether you have questions about the ELD mandate or your break requirements, you’ll find the answers in our frequently asked questions section below. If you’d like to learn more about Foley’s hours of service programs, please click here.

What is driving time?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines driving time as the time spent at the driving controls operating a commercial motor vehicle.

How long can I drive for?

You can drive for 11 hours. However, after 8 hours on duty, you must take a 30 minute break before resuming work. (See below)

What is on-duty time?

On-duty time encompasses all the time a driver begins to work or is required to be ready to work until the driver is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work. It includes driving time, inspection time, loading and unloading time, etc.

How long can I be on duty?

You can be on duty for 14 hours. However, after 8 hours on duty, you must take a 30 minute break before resuming work.

Are there any penalties for violating the Hours-of-Service rules?

Yes. Drivers and motor carriers who violate Hours-of-Service rules face serious penalties, up to and including out-of-service orders, fines, civil penalties and even criminal charges.

What is the 34-hour reset rule?

The rules allow you to ‘reset’ your hours of service by taking a 34 hour break, however, you can only do this once every 168 hours (7 days). Additionally, the 34-Hour Restart Period Must Include Two Periods Of Off Duty Time Between 1 AM And 5 AM.

Why is FMCSA requiring drivers to take breaks?

Recent research found that any break from driving reduces risk in the hour following the break, but off-duty breaks produced the largest reduction. This study also showed that when non-driving activities (both work- and rest-related) were introduced during the driver’s shift—creating a break from the driving task—these breaks significantly reduced the risk of being involved in a safety critical event during the 1-hour window after the break. The benefits of breaks from driving ranged from a 30- to 50-percent reduction in risk with the greatest benefit occurring for off-duty (non-working) breaks.

Do I have to take a break exactly 8 hours after I come on duty?

No, the rule gives drivers flexibility in when and where to take the break. The rule only prohibits driving if more than 8 consecutive hours have passed since the last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes. For example, if a driver spends 2 hours loading at the beginning of the day, then has a 10-hour drive ahead, he or she must take the break no later than 8 hours after coming on duty. The driver can, however, take the break earlier. If he or she takes a half-hour or more break at some point between the 4th and 8th hours after coming on duty, the driver can complete the rest of the planned 10 hours of driving without another break.

Does the break have to be spent resting?

No. The driver must be off duty for at least a half hour. Meal breaks or any other off-duty time of at least 30 minutes qualifies as a break. Drivers carrying certain explosives, who are required to attend the vehicle at all times, are allowed to count attendance time, which is on duty, toward the break if they do no other work during that time.

Can the shorter sleeper-berth break (minimum 2 hours) be used to meet the half-hour break requirement?

Yes. Any off-duty or sleeper-berth period of 30 minutes or more will meet the requirement.

Does the break count against the 14-hour driving window?

Yes. Allowing off-duty time to extend the work day would allow drivers to drive long past the time when fatigue becomes extreme. The 14-consecutive-hour rule was adopted to prevent that and to help drivers maintain a schedule that is consistent with circadian rhythms.

Which drivers are most likely to be affected by this provision?

Commenters to the proposed rule stated that most drivers already take breaks, so they are unlikely to be affected. The only drivers who will be affected are those who drive after working for more than 8 hours without taking any off-duty time.

Can time spent waiting to be loaded or unloaded count toward the break requirement?

Time spent waiting to be loaded or unloaded is on duty unless the driver has been released from all responsibility for the truck. Except for drivers attending loads of certain explosives, on-duty time cannot be considered as a break.

Are drivers using the “100 air-mile radius” or “non-CDL 150 air-mile radius” provisions in § 395.1(e) required to take the minimum 30-minute break if applicable?

Yes. Drivers operating under the 395.1(e) exceptions may not drive if more than 8 consecutive hours have passed since the last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes. Because they are not required to maintain records of duty status (“logbooks”), they are not required to record the break periods. Revised on February 13, 2012.

Are exceptions to Hours-of-Service rules made for adverse weather conditions?

A driver may exceed the 10- or 11-hour driving limit by no more than two hours due to adverse weather conditions. However, the adverse weather exception doesn’t allow a driver to exceed the 14- or 15-hour daily limit or the 60- or 70-hour weekly limit. In order to use an adverse weather exemption, the driver must be involved in a trip that could normally have been completed without an HOS violation and that the adverse driving conditions developed after the driver began the trip.

Are Hours-of-Service rules waived during an emergency?

Yes. Certain regulations, including Hours-of-Service rules, may be temporarily waived for motor carriers and drivers participating in an emergency relief effort. Emergency declarations may be issued by the President, governors of state or FMCSA.

Who is affected by an emergency waiver?

Only drivers and motor carriers who are providing direct emergency relief to, from or within the areas covered by the emergency declarations are temporarily exempt from 49 CFR Part 390-399 requirements. Before providing assistance, individuals and companies should coordinate with state and Federal officials.

What other rules are affected during emergency waivers?

Per 49 CFR 390.23 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), certain safety regulations (49 CFR Parts 390-399) are temporarily lifted for those participating in relief efforts. In addition to the Part 395 Hours-of-Service rules, these regulations cover:

  • General Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (Part 390)
  • Driver Qualifications (Part 391)
  • Driving Commercial Motor Vehicles (Part 392)
  • Parts and Accessories for Safe Operation (Part 393)
  • Inspection, Repair and Maintenance (Part 396)
  • Transportation of Hazardous Materials (Part 397)
  • Transportation of Transportation Workers (Part 398)
  • Employee Safety and Health Standards (Part 399)

The Federal exemptions during a declared emergency do not apply to CDL, drug and alcohol testing, registration and tax requirements.

Can I use an electronic device to keep track of my Hours-of-Service?

Yes, the regulations allow you to use an Electronic Logging Device (ELD).

Do I have to use an ELD?

Not normally. However, FMCSA makes the use of ELDs mandatory for motor carriers who have more than a 10% error rate on their hours-of-service documentation (such as log books).

Will ELDs become mandatory for new entrants and others?

Currently no-one else is required to have an ELD. However, FMCSA has announced a new rulemaking session to expand the new ELD regulations to include ALL:

  • New interstate entrants
  • Passenger carriers
  • Hazardous materials carriers