Hours of Service Rules for Truck Drivers

Hours of Service Rules for Truck Drivers

Middlesex County Truck Accident LawyersTired driving, is dangerous driving.  This principle applies to us all, but is particularly critical for commercial truck drivers who are piloting vehicles which can weigh 80,000 pounds.  In an effort to address some of the safety issues in the trucking industry, namely, drowsy driving car accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has implemented hours of service rules (HOS) regulating the breaks and maximum drive time for commercial truck drivers. The rules have been enacted to protect everyone on the road from drowsy driving accidents. On December 28, 2011, the FMCSA introduced a new provision called the 30-minute break rule, which requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break after 8 consecutive hours of driving.

The provision specifically applies to actual driving time, which means that drivers are not required to take a break after eight hours if some of that time was spent  on non-driving tasks like fueling, loading, or unloading cargo. However, once a trucker has been driving for eight hours, he or she must take a 30-minute break, or they will be in violation of the HOS rules.

Important Facts About the 30-Minute Rule

The following is a summary outline of some of the facts, provisions and exceptions to the 30-minute rule:

  • The 30 minute break must be taken after 8 hours of driving unless a specific exemption applies.
  • The break must be continuous, meaning the driver may not break it up (such as into two separate 15-minute breaks).
  • The driver is permitted to continue working, such as performing other “non-driving” tasks, but may not drive again after eight hours unless they have taken the required 30-minute break.
  • The 30-minute break is deducted from the maximum 14 hours truck drivers are permitted to work on a daily basis.
  • The 30-minute break rule only applies to vehicles hauling cargo; not passengers.
  • Drivers who who qualify for the “100 air-mile radius” and the “150 air-mile radius” are not covered by the 30-minute break rule.
  • The 30-minute break rule is only valid if the driver logs the time as “off duty” or “sleeper berth.” Once a driver is officially off-duty, he or she is free to do other activities.
  • Certain drivers must log their 30-minute break differently. For example, hazmat drivers are required to take the break and log it as “off-duty.” Drivers transporting Division 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3 explosives are required to take the 30-minute break, but they must log it is as “on-duty.”
  • Drivers who use the “oil-field exemption” are not exempt from the 30-minute break rule.

To help log time more efficiently and improve safety, truckers are required to install electronic monitors that track their time. This will help avoid HOS violations, but not all truckers and fleet companies are thrilled about this new device. Many of the smaller carriers in particular feel that the cost to install and maintain the device is a financial burden. In addition, these companies have expressed concerned about its impact on salaries.

Ultimately, the rule was put into place to ensure that truck drivers are not logging too many hours behind the wheel on too little sleep. Electronic monitors and smartphone apps like “KeepTruckin” are very user friendly, making it easy to log the mandatory 30-minute break. This particular app also notifies a truck driver if they are at risk of receiving an HOS violation.

The trucking industry is heavily regulated, and this rule is but one of many which apply to semis.  However, compliance with these important safety rules is largely a matter of self-regulation.

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