How long are truck drivers allowed to drive without sleeping?

front of truck

The laws and regulations that apply to truck drivers are the government’s acknowledgment of the increased danger that large trucks pose to the general public. These laws and regulations only apply to truck drivers because they address issues that are simply irrelevant to the average driver. For example, the average driver has likely never kept an official log of the number of consecutive hours they have driven or their sleeping schedules, yet this is one of the most basic job requirements for semi-truck drivers. Abiding by these laws could mean the difference between life and death for truck drivers and for other people on the road.

Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations: Combating Driver Fatigue

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) prohibits any driver from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) while impaired or at significant risk of becoming impaired as a result of fatigue. The same rules and regulations prohibit trucking companies from allowing their employees to operate a CMV under conditions that would lead to driver fatigue. The federal government’s Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations serve as a standardized guide in determining when and for how long a driver may operate a commercial motor vehicle.

The FMCSA requires almost all drivers who operate a CMV to follow the HOS regulations. Generally speaking, a CMV is defined as any vehicle that is used as part of a business, is involved in interstate commerce, and fits any of the below descriptions:
 

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more;
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more;
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including driver) not for compensation;
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including driver) for compensation;
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards.
     

The HOS regulations vary slightly depending upon whether the vehicle in question is designed for transporting property as opposed to transporting passengers. Below is a table from the FMCSA outlining the HOS regulations for semi-truck drivers:

 

HOURS-OF-SERVICE (HOS) RULES

PROPERTY-CARRYING DRIVERS

PASSENGER-CARRYING DRIVERS

11-Hour Driving Limit
May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.

10-Hour Driving Limit
May drive a maximum of 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty.

14-Hour Limit
May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.

15-Hour Limit
May not drive after having been on duty for 15 hours, following 8 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time is not included in the 15-hour period.

Rest Breaks
May drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since end of driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes. Does not apply to drivers using either of the short-haul exceptions in 395.1(e). [49 CFR 397.5 mandatory “in attendance” time may be included in break if no other duties performed]

60/70-Hour Limit
May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.

60/70-Hour Limit
May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty. 

Suspended!

NOTICE: The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 was enacted on December 16, 2014, suspending enforcement of requirements for use of the 34-hour restart. For more information see FMCSA’s Federal Register notice: www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service/hours-service-drivers

 

Sleeper Berth Provision
Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.

Sleeper Berth Provision
Drivers using a sleeper berth must take at least 8 hours in the sleeper berth, and may split the sleeper berth time into two periods provided neither is less than 2 hours.

 

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