Hours of Service for truck drivers
The Hours of Service regulations for commercial truck drivers was originally in implemented in 1938. The regulations have been regularly tweaked but have had major revisions in 1939, 1962, 2003 and 2011. The HOS specifies such things as the number of hours a driver may drive without both short and long term breaks, how many hours drivers can do other work such as load and unload, paperwork, truck maintenance and other support services.
In general, all drivers of vehicles of vehicles with a combined Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of 10,001 pounds or more or hauling cargo requiring HazMat placards are required to comply with HOS regulations. Local delivery drivers, while still subject to driving/duty hours requirements, may be exempt from maintaining log books (if their employer uses time clocks or other methods to monitor their activities. There are also other exemptions for select industries, certain weather events or during certain peak business days for some drivers.
The purpose and enforcement of HOS rules are strictly safety based. Contrary to comments over coffee at the local truck stop that the rules are to prevent drivers from earning money – research has repeatedly proven that the longer a driver is working the more likely they are to be involved in an accident. And the risk increases greatly the longer the driver is on duty.
Hours of Service are divided into 4 classes of activities:
- Off Duty: No duties or obligations
- Sleep Berth: Resting in truck sleeper area
- Driving: In the driver’s seat and operating the truck
- On Duty, Not Driving: All official duties not driving
HOS activities can be recorded either with a paper log book or electronically using an Electronic On Board Recorder. Either way, the driver is responsible for accurately recording their duty status. Violations of HOS rules by drivers can result in drivers being fined or being placed out of service (truck and loads now parked and delayed). Companies can also be fined or have other actions taken against for them repeated HOS violations by their employees. One action that can be taken against companies with chronic violations is the requirement that the company install Electronic On Board Recorders in their trucks. Another factor affecting truck drivers is that if they get too many moving violations (traffic tickets), they can have their license suspended by their state’s licensing agency – which would mean they would also lose their job.
The goal of Hours of Service rules
In general, HOS regulations state that drivers must log all time as either Driving or On Duty if they are doing any form of work or if they have any obligations. Drivers may not log time spent waiting to load or unload as Off Duty unless they are actually free to leave the truck and have no responsibilities to be present.
Current HOS rules also state that a driver must get at least a 30 minute break after 8 or less hours of driving. And, the driver is entitled to 8 hours of consecutive hours of rest (either off duty or in sleeper) before beginning a new “day” of up to 11 hours of driving. Also, the driver may not drive (at all) if they have accumulated more then 11 hours of driving or 14 hours of all work activities until they have taken the required rest times and time off duty.
Your compliance with Hours of Service regulations will be followed carefully – so play by the rules and have a safe trip.