Confused By Hours of Service?

Posted by Ryan Gotcher on Jun 4, 2019 12:14:07 PM

So, what are hours of service (HoS)?

The HoS rules are important to both carriers and truck drivers, and with the upcoming ELD mandate in December, now is a good time to dive into what they really are.

Hours of service refers to a set of rules established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The regulations around HoS are based on a set of studies assessing the relationship between ruling. The research found connections between fatigue with medical problems for truckers, as well as crashes. With HoS being legally mandated, it may be hard to follow these rules, but keep in mind the safety benefits and it becomes a no-brainer to follow the regulations.

Am I subject to HoS rules? Are there HoS exemptions?

Hours of Service affect nearly every commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver on the road. Generally, it is safe to say that if someone is operating a CMV they are subject to the HoS rules. There are a couple exemptions. Those who drive for government agencies or drivers who are transporting personal property are exempt. It is also important to note that drivers who are private roads, or roads restricted to the public, are no longer operating a CMV so they do not have to keep up with HoS regulations.

Taken straight from the FMCSA website drivers of a CMV are subject if they fit any of the following

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards

At the bottom of this page is a link to a webinar hosted by the FMCSA, where Tom Yager goes into detail about who is subject to HoS.

Hours of Service Rulings


When discussing specifics of HoS rulings, it can be important to note that there are two different rulings. The first applies to CMVs carrying property, while the second applies to CMVs carrying passengers. The webinar has a great Q&A that delves deeper into the actual rulings over HoS. Each ruling is also clearly shown in this summary.

For property carriers here is an overview of the rules associated with HoS.

  • The beginning of a shift or beginning of a duty period can only occur after at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
  • Once that duty period starts a consecutive 14-hour “driving window” starts. Nothing stops this time from counting down. After this period a driver may not drive a CMV until having at least 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time.
  • A driver may only drive for 11 hours in each 14-hour duty period.
  • If a driver reaches 60 on-duty hours in a 7-day period they must take an off-duty break of 34 consecutive hours.
  • For trucking companies that operate every day of the week, there is an alternative rule that allows 70 hours of driving over 8 days. To find out if your carrier fits this category consult the FMCSA website.
  • Drivers can only drive a max of 8 hours without a break off-duty of 30 minutes or more. This means a driver may only drive if 8 hours or less has passed since their last off-duty break of 30 minutes or more.

For an idea of what a normal schedule will look like, it can be beneficial to consult logbook examples. The FMCSA includes some handy examples on their website.

For passenger carriers the rules operate mostly the same, but it is important to note the differences if your carrier is passenger-based.

  • Passenger carriers can drive for up to 10 hours following 8 consecutive hours off-duty.
  • Passenger carriers must abide by the 15 hours rule. After 15 hours are spent on-duty a driver cannot drive until after 8 consecutive hours off-duty are taken. Off-Duty time is not included in these 15 hours.
  • Passenger carriers must also abide by the 60 hours in 7 days rule. There is also 70 hours in 8 days exception for carriers who operate every day of the week. To see if the exception applies to your carrier visit the FMCSA website.

Wrapping Up Hours of Service

Hours of Service is not only the law, but important and increases safety for drivers. In order to be compliant with HoS, and easily record times ELDs are now being mandated. An ELD is provided by a supplier who self-verifies with the FMCSA. Vendors can be found on this list. One recommended vendor to check out is Samsara.

The best way to fully ensure you understand HoS is to visit the FMCSA website. HoS is the law, and a full understanding of how to follow it is necessary to pass those roadside inspections and ensure you are compliant. There is a ton of information on their website as well as downloadable information sheets.

As always please leave a comment below if you have any questions or concerns. 

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