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Understanding the rules around Hours of Service (HOS) and learning tricks to maximize the time you can spend on the road is a skill set that carriers tend to develop over time. This means you’ll want to start as soon as possible, measuring the HOS that you can drive on a haul, planning your drive time, and learning how to anticipate any delays or detentions that can affect your HOS. Once you know how to optimize your HOS, you can avoid driving fatigued and keep yourself and everyone else on the road safe.

Our quick-read guide outlines everything you need to know about how to master your efficiency with HOS.

Definition of Hours of Service

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Hours of Service (HOS) refers to the maximum amount of time drivers are permitted to be on duty as an essential part of carrier compliance. These hours include driving time and specify the number and length of rest periods from driving to help ensure that drivers stay awake and alert.
In general, all carriers and drivers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) must comply with HOS regulations found in 49 CFR 395. Here’s a cheat sheet for HOS regulations.

FMCSA’s Final Rule on HOS

Please note the information provided below reflects regulations in place at the time of publication; for the most up to date HOS regulations, you can check the FMCSA website. To provide greater flexibility for drivers without adversely affecting safety, the FMCSA revised four provisions of the HOS regulations on June 1, 2020. These Department of Transportation (DOT) HOS regulations govern how many continuous hours a driver can spend on duty. Carriers were required to comply with the new HOS rules starting on September 29, 2020. Here’s a handy fact sheet on HOS updates.

FMCSA’s final rule that modernizes HOS regulations is estimated to result in nearly $274 million a year in cost savings for the U.S. economy.

The four updated provisions include:

1. Short-Haul Exception: Expands the short-haul exception to 150 air miles and allows a 14-hour work shift to take place as part of the exception.

2. Adverse Driving Conditions Exception: Expands the driving window during adverse driving conditions by up to an additional 2 hours.

3. 30-Minute Break Requirement: Requires a break of at least 30 consecutive minutes after eight cumulative hours of driving time as opposed to on-duty time and allows an on-duty/not driving period to qualify as the required break.

4. Sleeper Berth Provision: Modifies the sleeper berth exception to allow a driver to meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement by spending at least seven hours of that period in the berth combined with a minimum off-duty period of at least two hours spent inside or outside the berth, provided the two periods total at least 10 hours. When used together as specified, neither qualifying period counts against the 14-hour driving window.

Educational Tool for Hours of Service (ETHOS)

The FMCSA recently launched a new online tool that allows users to enter driver Records of Duty Status (RODS) to see if there are potential violations with the new HOS regulations.

How to Avoid HOS Violations

Commercial vehicles are subject to regular inspections. A failed roadside inspection can put your driver or vehicle out of service. Violations happen more than you think. In 2019, state and federal agencies performed nearly 3.5 million roadside inspections, and nearly 21% of vehicles were placed out of service.
During a regular inspection, the driver or fleet could also be subject to a written warning or a fine. HOS violations used to be the number one most common violation, until recently when the ELD Rule took effect. It requires commercial drivers to switch their RODS from paper logs to an electronic logging device, or ELD, as of December 2017.

Tips For Optimizing Your HOS

Avoiding violations can save a fleet time and money.
Maximize your efficiency with these tips:

1. Know your driving cycle.

Get familiar with the standard number of days of the week a carrier is allowed to operate. In a seven-day week, you are eligible to operate under the 70-hour/eight-day cycle, which limits a driver to 70 on-duty hours over an eight-day period. If it’s less than seven days a week, you are eligible to operate under the 60-hour/seven-day cycle, which limits a driver to 60 on-duty hours over any seven-day window.

2.  Restart your drive cycle.

If you want to make all your driving hours available again, you must take 34 consecutive hours off duty. Even if you have not worked the full 60 to 70-hour workweek, you will completely restart your driving hours once you take a 34-hour restart.

3. Know your 14-hour drive limit.

Following 10 consecutive hours off duty, a driver may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour to complete driving for the day. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period; however, other work-related tasks may still be performed.

4. Know your 11-hour rule.

Within the 14-hour driving window, you are allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours. The remaining three hours account for other work-related duties such as waiting to be unloaded, contacting dispatch, and more.

5. Log your 30-minute breaks.

If you’ve been driving for eight cumulative hours, don’t forget to take and log your 30-minute break. During this break you’ll need to spend 30 consecutive minutes not driving (on duty but not driving, off duty etc.) This time is a great opportunity to refresh, check in on administrative operations, and review your route.

6. Know your sleeper berth provision.

Optimize your time on the road by strategically planning with the sleeper berth provision in mind. Consider whether you should split the required 10-hour off-duty period, and don’t forget to account for the required two hour off-duty period and the seven hours required in the sleeper berth.

7. Maximize driver hours with personalized sleep planning.

Most people wake with the sun and go to sleep after the sun goes down. However, each person has their own “sleep personality,” meaning they could be a morning person or a night person. About 15% of drivers are night owls, another 15% are up with the larks, and the remaining 70% are intermediate sleep types who prefer to sleep from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am, give or take an hour either way. Anything your appointment teams can do to better schedule driving, pickups, and deliveries around your preferred sleep patterns will immediately boost your productivity, turnover, safety, and customer service.

Go Further with Xpress Technologies

Running an efficient trucking company and mastering your efficiency with HOS go hand-in-hand. The Xpress Technologies App provides an intuitive digital platform with one goal in mind: to help you grow as a carrier.