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How Long Can Truck Drivers Drive?

In this article, we’ll answer frequently asked questions about truck driver driving limitations for your fleet. We’ll also demonstrate how to use your ELD to comply with these driving and on-duty regulations.

The FMCSA and fleet managers share a concern for driver safety. The FMCSA’s Hours of Service (HOS) restrictions safeguard truckers and other road users. Despite their apparent objective, these standards can be difficult to understand and implement to your fleet. Driving time limits vary by carrier type and driver job schedule, making them difficult to grasp. 

In this article, we’ll answer frequently asked questions about truck driver driving limitations for your fleet. We’ll also demonstrate how to use your ELD to comply with these driving and on-duty regulations.

Why did FMCSA set driving limits?

The FMCSA’s HOS standards limit driving hours to reduce truck driver tiredness. Driver fatigue impairs awareness and distracts drivers. It can also lessen reaction times to harsh or changing road conditions and other drivers’ conduct, such as if the vehicle in front suddenly brakes. Driver weariness causes 72,000 collisions, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths annually in the US. 

HOS restrictions were created to reduce driver weariness and sleep deprivation. The FMCSA’s electronic logging device (ELD) mandate helps carriers track drivers’ hours and ensures compliance with HOS laws. ELD regulations promote safety and efficiency. By removing human logs and paper timecards, ATC Dispatching ELD solution has saved trucking businesses 20 hours per week in back office overhead.

Property-carrying vehicles have 14-hour and 60/70-hour limitations. These laws limit drivers’ on-duty hours but also specify how many of those hours they can drive. 

14-hour limit

It’s a driver’s daily on-duty limit. This HOS rule limits drivers to 14 hours on duty and 11 hours driving. Drivers can work 14 hours but only drive 11 hours. Drivers cannot drive 11 hours straight. Drivers can only drive eight hours straight. After eight hours, they must take a 30-minute break before driving again.

60/70-hour limit

This law limits drivers to 60 hours for seven days and 70 hours for eight days. As a “rolling” driving limit, the 60/70 hour limit can be confusing. These hours are based on a rolling seven or eight-day period, not the days of the week. If a driver starts a new shift on Tuesday, their seven- or eight-day duty period ends on Tuesday or Wednesday, not Friday. 

Trucking businesses that don’t run trucks daily must observe the 60 hour/seven day Hours of Service requirement. Daily truckers can follow either rule. 

Drivers must follow the 14-hour limit even if they work 60 or 70 hours over seven or eight days: 

  • They can work 14 hours per day. 
  • They can only drive 11 hours a day. 

If a driver works 14 hours five days in a row, they’ve reached their 70 hour/eight day limit. They can drive again after 70 hours off duty in eight days. More on the 34-hour restart later. 

Passenger vehicle driving limits 

Passenger-carrying cars have similar requirements, but the daily hours are different. After eight consecutive hours off duty, passenger-carrying drivers can drive 10 hours and be on duty 15 hours. Property-carrying truckers can drive for 11 of 14 hours following a 10-hour rest. Passenger-carriers, like property-carriers, can travel for eight hours before taking a 30-minute break. 

Passenger-carrying vehicles must follow the same 60 or 70-hour “rolling” on-duty limits as property-carriers. However, they can only be on duty for 15 hours every day and drive for 10 of those hours. 

How to reset driving limit?

Your drivers can reset their on-duty and driving times two ways, depending on their schedules. Drivers who don’t work a consecutive seven or eight-day shift can reset their daily clocks by taking an eight-hour (passenger-carriers) or 10-hour (property-carriers) break. Drivers can work their maximum on-duty and driving hours after these breaks. 

The 34-hour restart is the shortest option to reset clocks for 60/70-hour drivers who are running short on time. The FMCSA’s optional 34-hour restart lets drivers reset their driving and on-duty limitations by taking a 34-hour respite. Drivers can use a 34-hour reset whenever they want, including in their sleeper berth. See the 34-hour reset here. 

Are there driving exceptions?

Yes, under the FMCSA’s HOS standards, drivers can be on-duty or exceed their limits:

unfavorable driving circumstances: The FMCSA defines unfavorable conditions as snow, sleet, fog, or other poor weather that affects road conditions that were not obvious when the driver was dispatched. So a driver starting their shift in snow isn’t bad conditions. If they’re dispatched with the sun shining and midway through their drive hail hits and the roads become slick, that’s difficult weather. Drivers can exceed their limits in bad weather until they reach safety or their destination. Drivers cannot exceed their limit by more than two hours. 

Short-haul truckers drive within 150 miles of their home terminal. Short-haul drivers that start and finish in the same terminal can use this exception. Short-haul truckers can extend a workday by two hours under this exception. Drivers who use the 16-hour exception can undertake yard moves, loading, and inspections after reaching the daily driving restriction of 10 or eleven hours, depending on the carrier.

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