Decoding FMCSA Hours of Service Regulation


Are you feeling sleepy while driving?

Honey, you need to wake up!

Feeling sleepy, tired and sluggish on the road can end in dangerous, possibly fatal consequences. But don't you worry, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has you covered with its Hours of Service regulation!

The FMCSA Hours of Service regulation sets definite guidelines that almost all commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers must comply with. This regulation outlines the maximum number of hours that drivers can spend driving and how much break time they must take. The rationale behind these rules is to ensure that drivers are fully awake and alert as they drive so that fatigue-related accidents can be prevented.

Also called the DOT Hours of Service rules, these are applicable to property-carrying drivers (truckers) and passenger-carrying drivers. The rules are largely the same for both categories, with a few hour differences between the two.

We shall discuss the Hours of Service regulation, inclusive of the HOS final rule of September 2020 for property-carrying drivers below!

11-Hour Driving Limit

According to this rule, commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers are allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours after having 10 consecutive hours off duty.

14-Hour Limit

The off-duty time is limited to 14 hours, meaning that following 10 consecutive hours off duty, a driver can spend only four more hours off duty.

30 Minutes Driving Break

When the drivers have driven for a total of 8 hours, without at least a 30-minute interruption, they must take a 30-minute break.

60/70 Hour Limit

In a period of 7/8 consecutive days, a driver may not drive after completing 60/70 hours on duty as per HOS. This 7/8 consecutive day period, called the workweek, can be started again quickly by the 34-hour reset rule if the driver wants to do so.

34-Hour Reset

Under this, a driver may restart the 7/8 days working week after taking 34 consecutive hours off-duty. It can also exceed 34 hours but not be less than that. Duty hours do not include using the vehicle for personal conveyance.

Sleeper Berth Provision

Drivers may split their required 10-hour off-duty period into 2 hours and at least 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth. When the 2+7 pairing is used, it does not count against the maximum 14-hour driving window.

Adverse Driving Conditions

In adverse driving conditions such as snow, ice, sleet fog or other adverse weather conditions, or unusual road or traffic conditions, the 11-hour driving limit and 14-hour off-duty window can be extended up to 2 hours.

Short-Haul Exception

When drivers use the short-haul exception, they must report and return to the normal work reporting location within 14 consecutive hours, which can also be extended to 16 hours, and also stay within a 150 air-mile radius of that location.

Exceptions to FMCSA Hours of Service Regulation

A total of 23 exceptions to the FMCSA HOS rules are listed in the Code of Federal Regulations. Some of the important exceptions are:

Adverse Driving Conditions and Emergency Conditions: Adverse conditions include unfavorable weather conditions such as snow, ice, sleet or fog, as well as unusual road or traffic conditions that were not known to the driver earlier for acceptable reasons. The driver in such a case would be permitted to drive up to two additional hours for safe delivery of cargo. In an emergency, the driver is allowed to finish his/her run without being in violation of the HOS rules.

Short-haul Operations: This exemption involves drivers operating within a 150 air-mile radius of the work reporting locations, as well as operators who drive a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle that does not require being in possession of a commercial driver's license.

State of Alaska: In the state of Alaska, a property-carrying CMV driver cannot drive for more than 15 hours following 10 consecutive hours off-duty. The driver must get at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty or sleeper berth time. In case of adverse conditions, he/she is permitted to drive for the period of time needed to complete the run.

State of Hawaii: A driver who drivers a CMV in the state of Hawaii is exempt from Hours of Service regulations on the condition that the employer motor carrier maintains and retains for a period of 6 months accurate and true records showing the total number of daily duty hours of the driver and the reporting and release time of the driver.

Agricultural Operations: During the planting and harvesting seasons as determined by the States, drivers who carry agricultural commodities are exempt from HOS rules. Such drivers transport agricultural goods from source to location within a 150 air-mile radius, from wholesale or retail distribution point to where they are intended to be used, or within a 150 air-mile radius from the wholesale distribution point.


Educational Tool for Hours Of Service (ETHOS) is FMCSA's online tool for carriers and drivers to help them comprehend the recent changes to the Hours of Service regulation, and it provides updated and latest information on revised HOS regulations that went into effect on September 29, 2020. Drivers can also enter their records of duty status to check for any potential violations.

However, motor carriers should know that FMCSA ETHOS singles out only probable violations and it is not entirely reliable for monitoring hours of service compliance.

Driver's record of duty status

FMCSA Hours of Service regulation mandates that all drivers used by motor carriers must maintain a record of driver's duty status for each 24-hour period using an Electronic Logging Device (ELD.) The ELD Mandate was finalized in the year 2015 by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. It is the responsibility of the motor carrier to install ELD in its commercial motor vehicles and require its drivers to use the device. The driver must submit his record of duty status to the motor carrier that has employed him within 13 days of the 24-hour period to which the record pertains.

Penalty for Violation of Hours of Service Regulation

Violation of the DOT Hours of Service rule entails serious penalties, such as:

  • Imposition of fines by state or local enforcement officials
  • Reduction in scores of drivers or carriers under the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Enforcement Program
  • Placing the driver out of service at the roadside to accumulate enough off-duty time to be back in compliance
  • Levying civil penalties ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars per violation by FMCSA
  • Demotion of carrier's safety ratings
  • Federal criminal penalties can be issued if the HOS rule is violated by the carrier knowingly

Utah Truck Driving School will prepare you for the Hours of Service regulation properly when enrolling in the school for your Commercial Driver's License training. It is important to always know how much driving time is available to you and how you need to keep up with the physical endurance that this job requires. Always be well-rested, alert, vigilant, and on your toes when you drive because your safety is more important than the safety of the consignment. It is the driver that keeps logistics running.