DOT HOURS OF SERVICE: Meaning, Rules, Exemption & Violation Fines

DOT Hours of Service: meaning, rules, exemption & violation fines
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The DOT Hours of Service regulations for the US are the main topic of this blog post and owners of trucking companies seeking guidance on how to abide by the HOS regulations set forth by the US Department of Transportation should read this article.

Hours of service (HOS) regulations are one of the FMCSA’s most fundamental safety requirements and also one of its most effective. Understanding when and how these regulations apply to transportation firms and the commercial truck drivers they employ is crucial because they can be complicated. This article also looks at the definition of HOS rules, their purpose, and how to abide by them.

NOTE: The goal of this article is to give readers a broad overview of the laws governing hours of service and the specific laws that apply to the subject at hand.

What Do DOT Hours Mean?

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is an institution aimed at securing roads with regulations that support and uphold commercial driver regulations.

Note that: 

  • The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) established hours of service (HOS) regulations as effective safety compliance measures to guarantee that drivers are well-rested, awake, and alert.
  • An organization can improve driver safety, reduce risk, and evade expensive fines by ensuring fleet-wide adherence to HOS regulations.
  • Electronic logging devices help drivers concentrate on the road by automatically creating a digital record of their activity in real-time.

The goal of the U.S. Department of Transportation is to maintain U.S. transportation systems’ effectiveness and safety to promote “economic productivity and international competitiveness.” Rules, regulations, and compliance are necessary to maintain this level of safety and effectiveness.

Additionally, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the DOT, sets limits on how many hours a week and how many hours a day truck drivers can drive. The protection of truck drivers and other road users’ health and safety is its main objective.

Who Should Obey DOT Rules?

Drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) must abide by the rules. A CMV is generally defined as a vehicle that is used for business purposes, participates in interstate commerce, and fits any of the following criteria:

  • Vehicles weighing 10,001 pounds or more weight 
  • Vehicles carrying 16 or more passengers (including the driver). 
  • Vehicles intended for or used to carry at least nine passengers (including the driver) for hire.

Why Are HOS Rules in Place?

The purpose of HOS regulations is to increase truck drivers’ performance by ensuring their alertness and rest. Additionally, these rules protect other motorists and long-distance drivers from potentially fatal collisions.

So it is essential to keep drivers alert and prepared to move out if we want the roads to remain safe. The safety of your drivers will increase and your company’s overall risk will decrease when you make sure your fleet is in full compliance with all FMCSA HOS regulations.

Note that: Utilizing the best GPS fleet management systems assists your company in remaining in compliance with the law, cutting down on idle time, following HOS guidelines, and monitoring hard braking and acceleration.

What are the Hours of Service Policies for the DOT?

The maximum daily and weekly driving and working hours for commercial truck drivers are governed by the DOT hours of service regulations. These regulations set time limits on how long drivers can be in the driver’s seat and require rest breaks so that they are well-rested for the start of a new shift. 

Furthermore, the DOT takes drive-time monitoring very seriously and imposes severe fines on any logistics company that violates HOS rules. All interstate drivers of commercial motor vehicles with a manufacturer-specified gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds are subject to HOS regulations. These regulations apply to drivers who carry passengers as well as property, with a few minor exceptions.

How Does the 14-hour Rule Work?

This rule states that drivers may not drive for more than 14 hours in a row after reporting for duty and after a break of 10 hours. The 14-hour window is not extended by time spent off-duty. The maximum number of hours a driver can work in a day is set by the DOT 14-hour rule. The rule states that a driver must fit their entire day’s driving time into a 14-hour shift. 

According to this law, an employee is required to take a minimum of ten hours off work following a 14-hour driving shift. But how many hours can you actually drive during this period if you abide by the 14-hour on-duty rule? It might appear at first that you could drive for 14 hours nonstop, but this is untrue.

How Does the DOT 16-hour Rule Work?

The 16-hour rule is a unique exception that permits some drivers to work 16 hours as opposed to 14 without exceeding the allotted 11 driving hours per day. Drivers who have begun and ended their workdays at the same location each of the previous five workdays is eligible for this exemption. Because they go back to the same place of employment every day, these drivers can be categorized as short-haul drivers.

Furthermore, under the 16-hour rule, the driver can remain on duty for an extra two hours but must be relieved from duty immediately after the 16th hour. The 16-hour rule prevents situations where a driver travels for five hours, is delayed for five hours while delivering a load, and still has to go back to the reporting location. Without the 16-hour rule, a driver might exceed the 14-hour on-duty limit after only 9 hours of driving and being just one hour from home.

To get home without breaking HOS, drivers might speed or drive recklessly without the DOT 16-hour rule, essentially replacing one unsafe practice with another. The 16-hour rule is a sensible rule that prevents drivers from having to spend the night in the berth or a hotel when their home is close by.

Lastly, the DOT did a respectable job of including exemptions to the HOS rules that give truckers the freedom to act responsibly and safely during the regular course of their work. Even though the 16-hour rule can only be used once per week, it offers a great alternative for drivers who follow the same routine route and must return home each day.

What is the 60-hour Rule?

The 60/70-hour limit is another restriction in addition to the ones previously mentioned. This cap is based on a 7 or 8-day period that begins at the time your motor carrier designates for the beginning of 24 hours. This cap is sometimes referred to as a “weekly” cap. 

However, under this, you are not permitted to operate a commercial motor vehicle after working 60 hours on any 7 consecutive days if your company does not operate vehicles every day of the week. Once you’ve exceeded the 60-hour threshold, you won’t be permitted to operate a commercial motor vehicle until you’ve done so for seven consecutive days without exceeding the 60-hour threshold. 

Note that you may carry out other tasks, but you are not permitted to drive until you have taken enough time off from work to drop below the legal limit. You must include any additional hours you put in, whether they are for a motor carrier or someone else.

What is the 11 14 70 Rule?

11-hour rule

Commercial truck drivers who transport property are permitted to drive for up to 11 hours after 10 straight hours off for 14 hours. After eight hours of unscheduled rest, a truck driver is only permitted to operate a vehicle for a maximum of 10 hours.

The FMCSA offers the following illustration of the 11-hour rule: 

  • You’ve had ten hours off straight. 
  • You arrive at work at 6 a.m and from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., you drive (seven hours of driving).
  • After taking the necessary 30-minute break, you can continue driving for a further four hours until 6:30 p.m. 
  • Prior to driving again, you must wait at least 10 hours without working. 
  • You are allowed to work after 6:30 p.m., but you are not allowed to drive a commercial vehicle on a public road.

14-hour Rule

Commercial truck drivers who transport property are not permitted to drive for more than 14 hours straight after starting their shift. Before driving again, the driver must take a break from duty for ten hours straight. The maximum number of hours a driver may operate a vehicle while transporting passengers is 15. Drivers cannot extend the 14- or 15-hour duty period by using their off-duty time (e.g., breaks, meals, or fuel stops).

Furthermore, the FMCSA offers the following illustration of the 14-hour rule: 

  • You arrive at work at 6 a.m. after having 10 hours of uninterrupted rest. 
  • After 8 p.m., which is 14 hours later, you are not permitted to operate your truck. 
  • You may continue working after 8 p.m., but you must wait until you have taken a further 10 hours off, or the equivalent of at least 10 hours off work, before you can drive again.

70-hour Rule

Your employer may put you on a 70-hour/8-day schedule if your company does operate vehicles every day of the week. This means that after working 70 hours in any 8 consecutive days, you are not permitted to operate a commercial motor vehicle. 

Note that once you’ve exceeded the 70-hour threshold, you won’t be permitted to drive for eight consecutive days until you’ve fallen below that threshold. Until your blood alcohol level drops below the limit, you may work on other projects but not drive. You must include any additional hours you put in, whether they are for a motor carrier or someone else.

What is the 7/3 Split Rule?

The 7/3 sleeper berth split: In a 7/3 split, you start with 7 straight hours off while in sleeper berth status and then take your subsequent 3 hours later in the day to fulfill your required break.

Penalties for Breaking HOS Rules

When HOS regulations are broken, the driver and the trucking company both face swift and harsh penalties. It is perfectly legal for law enforcement officials to shut down a truck until the driver receives the necessary rest if they discover that drivers are working longer hours than they should be.

Even state and local fines could be assessed by local authorities against a driver. Whatever the violation, the real problems start as soon as law enforcement gets involved and confirms the violations.

Fines for noncompliance can range from $1,100 to $16,000 per violation, according to Truckinginfo. You may be subject to additional sanctions based on the frequency and seriousness of the violations. The more frequently you break HOS rules, the lower your driver’s compliance, safety, and accountability score will be. On the other hand, an employer who knowingly permits or promotes violations may be subject to harsh federal criminal penalties.

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