DOT Hours of Service (HOS) Rules: A Guide for Truck Drivers

April 26, 2024

Team ACV




DOT Hours of Service (HOS) Rules: A Guide for Truck Drivers

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A truck driver looking at the road while at the wheel

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a division of the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT), and it regulates truck drivers’ working conditions. One of the agency’s most important safety standards is the Hours of Service (HOS) regulation,1 which outlines how much a truck driver can work. While it is an important fundamental idea, the details of the regulation are complex. In this article, we will outline everything you need to know about the DOT Hours of Service rules so that you can comply with all policies. 

Breaking Down the DOT Hours of Service Rules

When Do the Rules Apply? 

For interstate commerce, drivers must follow the HOS rules at all times. But this is where it gets complicated—interstate commerce does not just mean you and your truck have crossed state lines, it can also mean you are working for a company that does interstate business. In that case, even if you do not cross state lines, you must adhere to the HOS regulations.2

For intrastate commerce, the rules don’t apply; but each state has its own policies that must be read and followed. 

Who Do the Rules Apply To? 

The HOS rules apply to anyone operating a commercial vehicle in the United States. That vehicle matches at least one of the following criteria:

  • Weighs at least 10,000 lbs. 
  • Transports a quantity of hazardous materials that require a placard 
  • Used to transport over 16 people 
  • Used to transport over 9 people for pay2

What Is the Purpose of Regulating DOT Driving Hours?

DOT driving hours mandate rest periods for truckers and cap out the maximum hours they are allowed to drive each day and each week. The DOT Hours of Service rules exist to ensure all truck drivers are rested and alert in order to be safe drivers. Because truck drivers make long trips across the country, the rules help protect the drivers, as well as other people on the road. 

DOT Hours of Service Rules Explained

The DOT Hours of Service rules define the amount of time that is considered a safe shift, the types of work drivers can do during their active time and allotted breaks, and what constitutes a workweek:

  • 14-hour/15-hour rule (shift limit): Property-carrying drivers cannot drive past 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty. At the 14-hour point, drivers must take 10 consecutive hours of break. Passenger drivers have the same rule, but the limit is 15 hours. At the 14/15-hour point, drivers may do other work, but they cannot drive. 
  • 11-hour/10-hour rule (driving limit): After 10 consecutive hours off duty, property-carrying drivers can drive up to 11 hours within a 14-hour period. For passenger-carrying drivers, the limit is 10 hours. 
  • 30-minute break rule: Commercial drivers cannot have any additional driving time if they haven’t taken a 30-minute break in eight hours. The break must be 30 consecutive minutes.  Drivers can perform other tasks, but they cannot be driving without a break.
  • 60-hour/70-hour limits: Any commercial drivers who don’t drive every day cannot do any additional driving after spending 60 hours on duty in a consecutive seven-day period. For those who drive every day, the limit is 70 hours in eight consecutive days. 
  • 34-hour restart: The 60-hour/70-hour limit can restart if a driver takes 34 consecutive hours off duty. At that point, the new work week can begin.3 

Since each of these policies hinges on a driver’s on-duty or off-duty time, let’s explore what is considered “on-duty.” This is defined as a time when a driver is doing any of the following tasks:

  • Driving
  • Inspecting/performing maintenance to the truck
  • Waiting to be dispatched by the carrier
  • Loading or unloading the truck
  • Completing shipment paperwork
  • Undergoing drug and alcohol testing 
  • Completing any additional work for the carrier 
  • Any time the driver spends in the commercial vehicle except when resting while parked, when resting in a sleeper berth, or when riding in the passenger seat for up to two hours.3 

Exemptions to the DOT Regulations

While the DOT hours of service rules are strictly enforced, there are some exceptions:

  • 30-minute break exemption: The 30-minute break rule does not apply to short-haul drivers who are within a 100-air-mile radius, or a 150-air-mile radius and are not require a CDL.3  
  • 16-hour short-haul exemption: Drivers carrying property can extend their 14-hour limit to 16 hours once per seven days if they meet certain criteria.1 
  • Non-CDL short-haul exemption: If a driver doesn’t operate a vehicle that requires a CDL and works within a 150-air-mile radius of the normal work location, they can extend the 14-hour limit to 16 hours twice per seven days. 
  • Adverse driving conditions: Drivers can extend their driving limit by two hours per shift if they face adverse driving conditions they didn’t anticipate.4 

What Penalties Are Enforced? 

When a driver fails to meet all the regulations, both the trucking company and the driver face penalties. A driver can have their truck shut down until they take proper rest or can even face penalties. Fines can range from $1,100–$16,000 per violation. If it is a recurring issue, a driver may even face punitive consequences.3 

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  1. FMCSA. “Hours of Service (HOS).” FMCSA. Retrieved March 12, 2024. 
  2. Truckstop. 2024. “DOT Hours of Service (HOS) Rules: A Guide for Truck Drivers.” Truckstop. Retrieved March 12, 2024. 
  3. Gargaro, David. 2023. “The Department of Transportation’s Hours of Service Regulations.” Business News Daily. Retrieved March 12, 2024. 
  4. FMCSA. “Summary of Hours of Service Regulations.” FMCSA. Retrieved March 12, 2024.