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An Honest Look At HOS Rules

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Since last year, drivers of Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) must follow new, updated rules limiting their Hours Of Service (HOS) in order to prevent dangerous exhaustion at the wheel. These vehicles are strictly defined in the law and generally include anything over 10,000 pounds, carrying hazardous material, or carrying over a minimum number of passengers (whether paying or not).

The HOS rules are slightly different for drivers of passenger vehicles than for cargo vehicles, but in each case limit the number of hours per shift and the number of hours per work week and require at least minimum rest periods. Drivers carrying cargo must have at least ten hours off-duty between shifts and may not work for more than 14 consecutive hours, or drive for more than 11 consecutive hours.

The driver must also take a 30 minute rest break at least every eight hours. Drivers may not work more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days. Work weeks must be separated by at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty and must include two nights, since most people sleep better at night and need sleep at night more. Exceptions exist for drivers with access to sleeper berths, but to use those exceptions the driver must spend at least eight hours in the berth consecutively, and must also take a separate break of at least two consecutive hours either in the berth or off duty. 

Drivers of passenger vehicles must have at least eight consecutive hours off duty between shifts and can work a maximum shift of 15 hours with a maximum ten hours of driving. The maximum work week is the same as for cargo haulers, although no minimum weekend length is specified. Drivers who have sleeper berths must stay in them for eight hours but may divide those hours into two parts, provided neither break is less than two hours long.

Failure to follow the new regulations—or failure to properly document following them—brings serious consequences for both the driver and his or her employer. Fees can be thousands, or even tens of thousands, of dollars per violation, even if the only thing the driver did wrong was to not properly log his or her breaks. Carriers can also receive fines in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for failing to require drivers to follow the HOS rules and to properly document their breaks. If a driver keeps going three hours or more over the limit, the violation is considered “egregious” and is subject to the maximum possible fine—well over $100,000, in some cases.

It is important to recognize that these rules do not actually limit a driver’s rights but, rather, protect them. Driving is difficult, dangerous work and requires adequate rest. The law, in effect, protects a driver’s right to remain healthy and safe while at work, even in the face of financial pressure to go farther and longer than prudence dictates.

Drivers need sleep to function well, and denying that need leads to long-term health problems and the risk of a driver falling asleep behind the wheel. 10,000 pounds hurtling down the highway without anyone at the controls is a nightmare that can be avoided.

Find out how Teletrac meets FMCSA standards and requirements with Fleet Director's HOS compliance solution.


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