What Are the DOT's Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations For Truck Drivers?

Truck Driver

The trucking industry is dangerous. 48,000 pounds of fabricated steel flying down the highway at 65 miles per hour simply can’t go unmonitored. As such, there are systems in place to make sure that the person sitting behind the wheel of each truck is properly rested, tested and safe.

But how is this done?

As a shipper, you’ve likely heard the term “Hours of Service” thrown around concerning your freight. But, what does it mean? How is it monitored? And how does it impact your bottom line? 

Here at ATS, we’ve worked in this industry for over 65 years. During this time we’ve seen Hours of Service regulations evolve into what they are today. Because of this we have a firm understanding of this topic and are ready to share this information with you. 

Stick around because, in this article, we’ll break down: 

What are Hours of Service In the Trucking Industry?

Hours of Service (HOS) are the governmental regulations for the number of hours a truck driver can work in a day. HOS are dictated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation solely dedicated to the oversight of the trucking industry.

Within their guidelines, the FMCSA uses Hours of Service to dictate the following aspects of a driver’s day:

  • Total amount of drive time
  • Number and length of breaks

The FMCSA’s HOS regulations concerning the amount of time a driver can drive in one day are broken down as follows:

11-Hour Driving Limit: A driver is not allowed to drive any more than 11 hours within a 24-hour timeframe. Additionally, a trucker must precede shifts of this length with a 10-hour consecutive break period. 

14-Hour Limit: Drivers who carry freight of any kind are not allowed to be actively “on duty” for more than 14 hours in a day. This 14-hour threshold includes all breaks, delays due to traffic, driving and rest periods a driver experiences while on duty. 

60/70-Hour Limit: This limit states that a driver may not drive after surpassing 60 hours of drive time in seven days or 70 hours in eight days. Drivers can only become “on duty” again once they have taken a consecutive 34-hour break. 

Number and Length of Breaks

In addition to the amount of drive time allotted to a trucker every day, the FMCSA’s HOS guidelines also outline the number, length and frequency of their breaks as follows:

30-minute driving break: Following a period of 8 cumulative hours of driving, a driver must take a 30-minute break if they haven’t already done so with a previous non-driving period. 

This break can be fulfilled by on-duty non-driving periods of any kind as long as they last for 30 consecutive minutes. (i.e. waiting to be loaded, sitting in a parking lot, etc).

10-Hour Consecutive Break: Every 11-hour driving period must be preceded by a 10-hour consecutive breaking period. 

34-Hour Break: Every driver must actively take a 34-hour break following any period of 60/70 hours of driving within 7/8 consecutive days. Unless they're running on "recap hours" which you can learn more about here

Hours of Service Clock

How Are Hours Of Service Monitored?

The first federal law mandating that truckers keep track of their service hours was passed in 1937. At that time, paper logs and a driver’s word were the only way for the government to oversee their mandates. There were constant discrepancies in record-keeping among drivers as this process proved difficult to manage. 

On the whole, monitoring a driver’s HOS has gotten easier in the digital age. What was difficult to track in years past, because of the oversight discrepancies presented by paper logs, has become easier with technological advances. 

Today’s truck drivers — especially those with newer vehicles — employ electronic logging systems to track their HOS. In fact, on February 16, 2016, the FMCSA passed its electronic logging device mandate. This mandate ordered commercial trucking enterprises to track their HOS using electronic logging systems. 

These systems leverage GPS tracking capabilities to start a driver's clock as soon as their truck starts moving and keep track of — among other things — their drive time, route and number of breaks. Logging systems like Samsara and KeepTrucking store all necessary data within an easily navigable mobile app. 

By using these systems to track their HOS, truck drivers can ensure that they are following all governmental driver safety stipulations. These apps also give drivers, brokerages and shippers alike easy access to information about where they currently stand in terms of their remaining HOS. Knowing this information helps all parties plan for the successful transportation of freight.

How Do Hours Of Service Influence Shipping Rates?

Concerning the rate shippers pay to move their freight, HOS — when properly monitored and planned for — shouldn't become an issue. Too often though, the HOS of a driver is not adequately budgeted. In these cases, when a driver takes a load without the proper amount of HOS remaining on their log, costly delays can arise. 

Think about this, a driver who has four hours of drive-time remaining before reaching his 11-hour driving limit for the day agrees to move a load 100 miles. Here at ATS, we like to estimate that trucks, on average, drive at a rate of 50 miles per hour. Therefore, in normal circumstances, this should be very manageable. 

Now imagine that this same driver, because the shipper wasn’t ready, has to wait for two and a half hours after he arrives to pick up his freight. Because of this delay, and the fact that his clock doesn’t stop while he’s waiting for the shipper, this trucker can no longer legally haul his load. 

Now, everyone has to wait for 10 hours while the trucker’s clock resets. This causes a delay for the trucker because he’s already planned out his next few loads, and a delay for the shipper because they aren’t able to get their freight moved on time. 

In some instances, these delays can end up costing the shipper as they try to find a last-minute shipping solution to meet their deadlines. With heightened urgency, comes increased prices.  

Related Content: A Comparison of Freight Pickup and Delivery Appointments (Morning, Mid-Day, Afternoon and Evening)


Oversized Shipment

How Can You Ensure Hours of Service Don’t Impact Your Business?

Be prepared. One thing you’ll certainly learn when working in this industry is that many things are out of your hands. For this reason, you must take the necessary steps to control what you can. The greatest thing you can do to make sure HOS doesn’t end up impacting your business as a shipper is to plan and be prepared. 

Make sure that you’re ready to get your freight loaded when your truck shows up. Doing so will help you ensure that the trucker's HOS doesn’t end up impacting your supply chain. 

Another thing that will help you to avoid inconvenience at the hands of HOS is to communicate with your transportation provider regarding your freight’s exact specifications. Tell them the dimensions of your freight and what its time frame is so that when your truck arrives, no one is surprised and all parties are ready to go. 

Related: How Many Miles is a Truck Driver Allowed to Drive in One Day?


Hours of Service Matters

Now that you have a better grasp on what HOS means, how HOS is monitored and how HOS can influence shipping rates, you’re ready to continue your shipping journey. Always remember that hours of service are meant to keep the trucker, bystanders and freight safe during transit. As such, always do everything you can to help a trucker stay within HOS regulations.  

The next step in your shipping journey is to check out the FMCSA’s website where they have valuable information regarding all of the trucking industry’s safety guidelines.

Also, make sure to subscribe to our Learning Hub where we post valuable transportation industry content every day. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your shipping needs.

Tags: Safety, Freight Brokerage, Oversized Shipping, Project Logistics, Heavy Haul Trucking, Truck Driver Shortage, Project Shipping, Terminology

Sean Glenz

Written by Sean Glenz

Sean has been with ATS in various capacities since early May 2011. During this time, Sean has thoroughly enjoyed the work he does with carriers and customers spanning the country. Today, Sean serves as operations manager in the logistics division and continually strives to develop lifelong relationships with his customers and co-workers.

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