February 8, 2022

Get to Know Driver Hours of Service Regulations

The Hours of Service model was designed first and foremost to make roads safer, both for truck drivers and everyday commuters. Enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT), Hours of Service places a hard cap on the number of hours drivers can work per day and per week. The rules also include mandatory rest breaks for drivers to recuperate and avoid the dangers of fatigue.

Prior to HOS regulations, there was little oversight preventing overworked drivers from pushing past their physical limits — and overly-ambitious employers encouraging drivers to do so. In light of one study revealing 1 in 25 truck drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel within weeks of being surveyed, Hours of Service rules represent an important shift in how businesses and drivers approach safe and efficient delivery.

How Hours of Service Work

The FMCSA requires any carrier or driver operating a commercial motor vehicle as part of interstate commerce to observe the official Hours of Service regulations. This can include passenger transportation vehicles as well, though the rules for these drivers differ. Here are a few of the most common rules to remember and be aware of.

The 14 Hour Rule

Probably the most well-known regulation introduced by HoS is the 14-hour rule, which restricts drivers to a 14 consecutive hour workday. Drivers moving property (as opposed to passengers) must be off-duty for at least 10 consecutive hours before resuming delivery.

The 11 Hour Rule

Within the 14-hour working window, property-carrying drivers can only drive 11 total hours. So, if you clock in at 12 a.m., you have until 2 p.m. to arrive at your destination and begin a 10 hour rest period, but you may only be driving for 11 of those hours. (Passenger-carrying drivers may drive up to 10 hours after being off duty for eight straight hours.)

30 Minute Breaks

Truck drivers are also required by rule to take mandatory 30-minute breaks after eight consecutive hours on the road. This time can be used for rest or other work-related tasks besides driving the vehicle.

60/70 Hour Limit

Finally, there are regulations dictating the number of hours drivers can be on-duty within a workweek. Carriers who operate every day of the week may not drive more than 70 hours in 8 consecutive days. For carriers who do not operate every day of the week, the limit is 60 total hours over the course of seven consecutive days.

How Are Hours of Service Enforced? 

Every driver of a commercial motor vehicle must comply with the Hours of Service rules. Employers are also responsible for enforcing the Hours of Service limits within their ranks.


In order to stay compliant, most trucking companies are required to use electronic logging device (ELD) solutions in their vehicles. An ELD is a simple tracking device that transmits a truck’s data in real-time to a compliance manager, who can then monitor drivers and ensure proper HoS protocols are followed.

Are There Ever Exceptions?

The FMCSA does grant some wiggle room in certain scenarios, as unforeseen circumstances aren’t uncommon in the field of logistics.

Short Haul Drivers

One common exemption applies to truckers operating within a 150-mile radius of their home base. These drivers, normally out on short-haul deliveries completed within a day, can refrain from taking their 30-minute break as long as they remain under the 14-hour shift limit.

Adverse Weather

Harsh challenges like chaotic weather can sometimes arise and wreak havoc on typical transport routes. Adverse driving conditions that couldn’t be predicted or avoided can qualify a driver for an exception allowing for an extra two hours on the road. You can also use this exemption for unexpected traffic delays, like an accident.

State of Emergency

In even rarer cases, such as state or federal institutions declaring a state of emergency, all Hours of Service regulations can technically be suspended until the FMCSA declares otherwise (they do keep a list of emergency declarations in anticipation of such dire circumstances).

Breaking Down Hours of Service by Driver Type

Let’s summarize the key differences in HOS rules between property-carrying drivers and passenger-carrying drivers.

Property-Carrying Drivers:

  • May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
  • Must take a 30-minute break when they have driven for a period of 8 cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption. The break may be satisfied by any non-driving period of 30 consecutive minutes.
  • May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
  • May split their required 10-hour off-duty period, as long as one off-duty period (whether in or out of the sleeper berth) is at least 2 hours long and the other involves at least 7 consecutive hours spent in the sleeper berth. All sleeper berth pairings MUST add up to at least 10 hours.
  • Are allowed to extend the 11-hour maximum driving limit and 14-hour driving window by up to 2 hours when adverse driving conditions are encountered.
  • May use a short-haul exception to operate within a 150 air-mile radius of the normal work reporting location.

Passenger-Carrying Drivers:

  • May drive a maximum of 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
  • May not drive after having been on duty for 15 hours, following 8 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time is not included in the 15-hour period.
  • May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.
  • Must take at least 8 hours in the sleeper berth, and may split the sleeper berth time into two periods provided neither is less than 2 hours. All sleeper berth pairings MUST add up to at least 10 hours.
  • Are allowed to extend the 10-hour maximum driving time and 15-hour on-duty limit by up to 2 hours when adverse driving conditions are encountered.
  • May use a short-haul exception to operate within a 150 air-mile radius of the normal work reporting location.

Trucks parked in a lot.

Potential Changes Coming to Current Hours of Service Regulations

Global catastrophes tend to shake up how supply chains and transportation services operate. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, several ideas have been discussed in regards to increasing trucking efficiency while maintaining driver safety standards.

One proposal termed the “Split Duty Period Pilot Project,” suggests allowing up to a three-hour break from duty instead of the mandatory 30 minute rest period. The FMCSA aims to further scrutinize its current practices for ways to aid drivers in getting more work hours in a safe way. The result could mean a potential extension of allowable work hours from 14 to 17 in a single day.


The overall goal for HoS regulations is to keep drivers safe. Strict limits on shift times, driving hours, and rest periods might feel restrictive at first, but these guidelines have become a necessary industry standard.

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