Truck Driving Regulations: How Many Hours Can a Truck Driver Drive?
Sleep deprivation due to excessive driving has long been a concern within the trucking industry. In fact, once fatigue sets in, drivers are three times more likely to get in an accident, putting the driver and everyone close to them at risk of severe injury or death.
This risk is one reason the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established strict Hours of Service (HOS) regulations that all trucking companies must follow. The HOS regulations establish separate driving limits for property-carrying vehicles and passenger-carrying vehicles. Understanding the difference between these two truck driving regulations is essential. Driving beyond the HOS regulations not only leads to fatigue, poor reaction times, and impaired judgment, but also results in severe fines.
Property-Carrying Vehicles Limits
Property-carrying vehicles are defined as any vehicle where property is stored within a semi-trailer or trailer. This property can consist of consumer goods, food and produce, industrial finished goods, packages, and other transport products. For those who drive vans, smaller trucks, or pickups, the property is held in the cabin or holding area of the vehicle.
The HOS regulations define two types of hour limits for property-carrying vehicles: 14-hour limits and 60/70-hour limits.
The 14-hour limit, as defined by the HOS regulations, is an on-duty rule stating that commercial truck drivers cannot exceed 14 hours of work per day and cannot drive for more than 11 hours.
However, the on-duty regulation says that only eight of the 11 hours can be driven consecutively. This means drivers must take a minimum of one 30-minute rest before continuing to drive. In addition, commercial truck drivers must have 10 hours of rest (off-duty) before going on duty or starting a work shift.
60/70 Hour Limit
HOS regulations also define rules concerning the total number of working hours, or on-duty hours, that drivers can work over seven and eight days. The 60-hour limit rule states that drivers can only work 60 hours over seven consecutive days, and the 70-hour limit says drivers can only work 70 hours over eight straight days.
These limits are not a Monday-to-Friday rule. The FMCSA defines the number of consecutive working/driving hours over a seven- and eight-day period regardless of what day the driver begins their shift. The 60/70-hour limit also does not supersede or override the 14-hour daily limit rule.
Think of the 14-hour limit as the maximum hours a driver can work daily, where only 11 hours can be spent driving, and the 60/70-hour limit means that the driver operating a maximum of 14 hours daily would attain their 60-hour limit within four days and the 70-hour limit within five days.
Like all regulations, the HOS rules do allow for exceptions. There are two exceptions as defined by HOS: adverse driving conditions and 16-hour exceptions.
The adverse driving condition exception relates to changing weather conditions during transit. This exception allows drivers to drive two additional hours beyond their daily or on-duty driving limit of 11 hours. However, it’s important to note that this exception relates to changing weather conditions while in transit. If a driver starts a route in bad weather, like snow, sleet, or rain, then the rule does not apply.
The 16-hour exception is for drivers traveling within 150 miles of their main terminal or for drivers who start and end shifts within the same terminal. This regulation states that a driver can extend a single day’s shift by two hours over their seven- or eight-day work week. However, it does not extend the 11-hour daily driving limit. Drivers can only spend these two additional hours doing other tasks for their carrier or employer.
Passenger-Carrying Vehicles Limits
As the name implies, a passenger-carrying vehicle is a vehicle that transports passengers to and from different cities, states, or other locations. The FMCSA defines a passenger-carrying vehicle as any vehicle capable of carrying 16 or more passengers, including the driver.
The passenger-carrying vehicle regulations are slightly different from the property-carrying vehicle limits. Passenger-carrying vehicle drivers have a maximum limit of 15 hours of work per day on duty and cannot exceed 10 hours of driving during that day. Drivers must also have eight consecutive hours of rest.
Much like the regulations concerning property-carrying vehicles, passenger-carrying vehicles must take a 30-minute break or rest every eight hours. Additionally, passenger-carrying vehicles must comply with the 60/70-hour limits as defined by the HOS.
There are some exceptions to passenger-carrying vehicle limit regulations. First is the sleeper berth provision. A sleeper berth is a special compartment in a bus or passenger-carrying vehicle designed for sleeping. If a driver uses a sleeper berth, they can split their eight-hour rest time into several periods. However, each period cannot be less than two hours, and the total period spent in rest must add up to eight hours.
The adverse driving condition exception only applies to passenger-carrying vehicle drivers, although the exception is slightly different compared to property-carrying vehicle drivers. In the adverse condition exception, drivers can work beyond their 10-hour driving time and 15-hour on-duty limit by up to two hours if the weather becomes inclement while they are driving.
Lastly, passenger-carrying vehicle drivers also have a short-haul exception. I. If the driver is starting and ending their shift at the same terminal or they are driving within 150 miles of their terminal, they can be on duty for up to 14 hours.
Resetting Hour Limits
HOS regulations provide two methods of resetting hourly limits for both property-carrying and passenger-carrying drivers. The first method allows drivers to reset their limits if they don’t work seven or eight consecutive days. Property-carrying vehicle drivers can reset their hours by taking a 10-hour break, while passenger-carrying vehicles can do the same by taking an eight-hour break.
The 34-hour restart is the second method, and it relates to the 60/70-hour limit. Property-carrying and passenger-carrying drivers can reset their 60/70-hour on-duty limits by taking a 34-hour break or rest. The HOS regulations do not state the maximum number of times a driver can take a 34-hour reset, so drivers are free to use it as many times as needed.
Learn More About Trucking Regulations From TSI
TSI is a family-owned and -operated trucking company that has been in operation for more than four decades. Since our founding, we’ve been committed to creating a safe, inclusive, and educational environment for our employees. We ensure every member of our team is thoroughly trained and aware of federal, state, and local regulations and provide continual training and professional development opportunities. If you’re new to the trucking industry, we even offer a hands-on New Drivers Program that only takes six weeks to complete! Contact us if you have questions about trucking regulations or life on the road, or visit our website today to learn more about our hands-on program and current employment opportunities.