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Hours of Service Regulations

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The federal government enforces hours of service regulations to prevent drowsy driving. Commercial vehicle operators must follow these rules if they move hazardous materials or drive in multiple states. The regulations apply to vehicles that carry numerous passengers or weigh over 10,000 pounds. Basically, if you drive commercially (freight or passengers), you’ll need to know about the Hours of Service regulations.

Rest Periods & Driving Limits

After they stop driving for at least 10 hours, truck drivers can legally operate their vehicles for up to 11 hours. The regulations also create a driving “window” of 14 hours that begins after a 10-hour break. Regardless of how often they rest during this period of time, truckers must stop driving after 14 hours have elapsed.

Additionally, the regulations prohibit drivers from working more than 60 hours in seven days or 70 hours in eight days. Unlike bus drivers, truckers may reset the weekly clock by resting for at least 34 hours. The rules also limit bus drivers to 10 consecutive hours of service. Otherwise, the regulations are quite similar for both types of vehicles.

A driver can take a 10-hour break without leaving the vehicle. However, the rules require that he or she spend a minimum of eight hours in the sleeper berth. The driver can stay in the berth or sit in the passenger seat for the remaining two hours. Shorter rests and naps do not extend the number of hours that a person may drive.

Safety & Hours of Service

Despite stricter enforcement of these rules, truck driver and passenger fatalities increased during 2011. Overdrive Magazine states that the number of deaths went up nearly 20 percent. It reports that many truckers attribute this trend to electronic on-board recorders, unqualified drivers and certain HOS regulations.

Some truckers complain that the 14-hour window and the sleeper berth rules discourage them from taking short naps or breaks. They also blame trucking companies and shippers for pressuring them to work too many hours. Meanwhile, EOBRs have made it very difficult to ignore the 14-hour limit. They also enable demanding trucking companies to closely monitor drivers.

Many truck drivers warn that driving schools and trucking firms provide insufficient training. They report that too many distracted and inexperienced truckers are on the road. A nationwide shortage of drivers has worsened the problem. Some companies resort to hiring people without commercial licenses and training them too quickly to adequately learn.

Truckers have recommended a variety of solutions. Some believe that the HOS rules should allow drivers to extend the 14-hour window by taking short breaks. Others call for greater regulation to ensure that drivers receive adequate training. Many feel that regulators and employers ought to give them more freedom to decide when they need to rest.

Because regulations can change often, be sure to check the current version of the Hours of Service Regulations on the FMCSA website.