Hours-of-service compliance is centered on two areas, limits and logs. Both drivers and carriers are held responsible for compliance with these regulations. If you're an independent owner-operator, that means you're both the driver and the carrier. Here's a back-to-basics rundown:
The limits are actually fairly straightforward. These include no driving once you reach:
- The end of the 14th hour after coming on duty for the day (§395.3(a)(2))
- 11 hours of driving (§395.3(a)(3))
- 60 hours in 7 days, or 70 hours in 8 days, depending on whether the company operates vehicles 7 days a week (§395.1(b)(1) or (b)(2))
The hours that count toward the 14- and 11-hour limits are started and stopped by a break of 10 hours or more (§395.3(a)(1)).
Once you reach the end of the 14th consecutive hour since coming on duty from your 10-hour or more break, you cannot drive a commercial vehicle. You can work, but you cannot drive. If you started your day at 7 a.m., you cannot drive a commercial vehicle any more as of 9:00 p.m. Waiting to load or unload, meals, other breaks, breakdowns, etc., do not impact the 14-hour limit.
There are only a couple of exceptions to the 14-hour limit, but they are fairly narrow exceptions requiring certain conditions be met. The first exception applies only to drivers of vehicles that do not require a CDL to operate and stay within 150 air-miles of, and return to, the work reporting location. This exception allows the driver to drive up to the 16th hour twice during every seven days.
The other exception allows a driver that has returned to his/her work reporting location the last five working days to drive through the 16th hour once every seven days, or once since the driver’s last 34-hour restart. One requirement that is unique to this exception is that the driver must be released for a 10-hour break after the 16th hour, not just “stop driving.”
11 hours driving
Within the 14 hours, you can drive a total of 11 hours. Any time at the controls of a commercial vehicle while on the roadway counts as driving.
There is only one exception to the 11-hour driving limit, and that is the “adverse driving conditions” exception at §395.1(b). This allows a driver to complete his/her run or reach a place of safety using up to an extra two hours of driving time if delayed by adverse conditions that could not have been known at the time of dispatch. However, this exception does not allow the driver to go over his/her 14-hour limit.
Please note that drivers driving in Alaska and passenger-carrying drivers (bus and motor coach drivers) have different daily hours-of-service limits.
To offset the effects of cumulative fatigue, drivers are not allowed to drive if they have been on duty for 60 hours over the last 7 days, or 70 hours over the last 8 days. Companies that operate vehicles seven days a week are allowed to use the 70-hour limit, if they choose to.
Much like the other limits, the driver can continue to work once the 60- or 70-hour limit is reached, but the driver cannot drive.
Any break of 34 hours or more will allow the driver to “restart” the 7 or 8 day days. In effect, once the driver has 34 consecutive hours off, the driver’s total hours for the last 7 or 8 days go to “zero.”
New for July
As of July 1, drivers can only take a restart if the driver has not had a restart in the last 7 days (168 hours) and if the 34 hours include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods. If the 34 hours did not include these two periods, it is not a restart even if it is 34 hours long (§395.3(c) and (d)).
Also new for July is that a driver cannot drive if it has been 8 hours since the driver’s last off-duty break of 30 minutes or more. Basically, a driver will need to stop and take a 30-minute break if it has been 8 hours since the last break of 30 minutes or more and the driver wants to continue or start driving (§395.3(a)(3)(ii)).
The main record that is used to show compliance with these limits is the driver’s daily log, officially known as the “driver’s record of duty status” (see §395.8). The driver’s log must account for all activities based on the four “duty lines” on the “grid graph.” These duty lines are:
- Off duty: Driver has no responsibility to the carrier, the vehicle, or the cargo, is performing no work for the carrier (or anyone else), and is free to pursue activities of his/her choosing.
- Sleeper berth: Time spent is the “bunk” (sleeper berth) on the truck.
- Driving: Time spent at the controls of a commercial vehicle on the road.
- On duty: The driver is performing any work for, or has any responsibility to the carrier. Waiting to load or unload, loading and unloading, inspecting the vehicle, fueling the vehicle, standing by, and taking a drug test (including driving to and from) would all be examples of on-duty time.
As well as the grid graph accounting for the time, the log must contain other information. This includes the date, miles driven, driver’s signature, co-driver’s name (if there is one), shipment number (or shipper and cargo), starting time, carrier’s name and address, total hours on each duty line, and the remarks section where the location of any duty change is recorded. A duty change is any time the driver changes duty lines.
The driver’s log must be current at all times to the “last duty change.” If the driver changes duty from on duty to driving at 3 p.m. at Toledo, Ohio, and the driver’s log is checked at 6 p.m. by an officer, the log will need to show the driver driving since 3 p.m. starting at Toledo, Ohio.
There are electronic versions of logs available. These fall into two general categories, automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs), and electronic logging applications (apps) and programs.
AOBRDs are connected to the vehicle and automatically determine when the driver is driving. If the driver is using an AOBRD, the officers will only ask to see the screen, smartphone, or tablet that is used to display the data the AOBRD has recorded. These are discussed in the regulations at §395.2 and §395.15.
Electronic logging apps and programs that are not getting movement data from the vehicle to determine when the driver is driving are basically an electronic version of a paper log, and are regulated under the “regular” log requirements in §395.8. One key point to using such electronic logging apps and programs is that the driver must be able to print his/her logs on demand during a roadside inspection.
There are a couple of exceptions in the regulations that allow the driver to keep time records rather than having to complete a log. These apply to drivers that stay within 100 or 150 air-miles of their work reporting location and return nightly. There are other requirements, so if you think one of these exceptions might apply, check §395.1(e).
There are other “specialized” exceptions as well. These apply to driver-salespeople, drivers involved exclusively in oilfield operations, drivers specializing in transporting construction materials and supplies, and certain drivers transporting agricultural products. Each of these exceptions has certain requirements that must be met to use them, and they only exempt the driver from specific hours-of-service regulations (see §395.1).
Who is responsible for what?
The driver is always responsible for compliance with the limits and logging requirements. The driver can be written a violation on a roadside inspection report and fined (and maybe even placed out of service), if:
- The driver is not able to present a log or an acceptable electronic record from an AOBRD for today and the previous seven days at the time of the inspection.
- The driver’s log is not current to the last change in duty status at the time of the inspection.
- The driver is operating over a limit or has operated over a limit in the past seven days.
- The driver has falsified a log entry.
The company (the carrier whose DOT number the driver was operating for) is responsible for making sure that:
- Drivers submit the completed logs within 13 days.
- Drivers are operating within the limits.
- Drivers are submitting logs that are true and correct (not false and containing all information).
- The logs are retained for 6 months.
To verify that drivers are obeying the hours-of-service regulations, the company must have a mechanism in place to verify compliance, and catch and prevent violations. This is referred to as a “safety management control.” The safety management control must at least be able to make sure that drivers are obeying the limits and not submitting false logs.
During the six months that the company must keep logs on file, the logs are subject to investigation by FMCSA safety investigators. The investigation involves:
- Checking form and manner (all required information is on all logs),
- Checking for compliance with the 11, 14, and 60/70 hour limits, and
- Comparing the logs to supporting documents (such as fuel receipts, toll receipts, inspection reports, accident reports, etc.) to verify that the logs have not been falsified.
Any violations discovered can result in the company being fined. In some cases, the driver may be fined for violations discovered during an investigation as well. If the violations are frequent and serious enough, the company may end up with a lowered safety rating, or worse, ordered out of service.
The company is also responsible for making sure that any assignment given to the driver can be completed legally. As the hours-of-service limits are what determine how many miles a driver can drive and how much work a driver can do, it is something that must be considered with every work assignment.
If you are an owner-operator operating under your own DOT number, then you are both the driver and the company. This means that you must follow both sets of requirements. On the road you will need to have today plus the last seven days of logs, and the last six months of logs will need to be retained at “the office.”
You would also be responsible for making sure that your driver (you) remains in compliance with the regulations and is not assigned runs that he/she cannot complete!
Thomas Bray is an editor in the Transportation Publishing Department of the Editorial Resource Unit at J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc, specializing in motor carrier safety and operations management.