What Is HOS: Impact, Rules, and Exceptions

HOS, or Hours of Service, are statutory periods of time related directly to driving, non-driving work duties, and rest for commercial drivers. These time limitations are determined and controlled by government agencies such as the FMCSA and, also, DOT. They were developed to eliminate roadside hazards caused by tired CMV drivers. The Hours of Service helps to regulate the workload of transport workers.

According to HOS rules, we have several categories of commercial automobile drivers that have to adhere to time limits. There are groups of CMV drivers that are allowed not to. There are mandatory regulations and exceptions. Fines are provided for violation of the established regulations. You will learn about all this in the following article.

Why Commercial Drivers Must Follow Hours of Service Rules

The industry of cargo transportation has always existed. However, it was only during World War I that goods were actively carried using trucks. More and more huge automobiles carrying loads began to appear on the ways. At the time, the highways were not of the best quality and the transport of goods was not properly regulated. All this has caused an increase in the number of road accidents involving truckers. Hours of Service was created to solve this problem.

Various studies were carried out, including those ones by the labor protection service. As a result, it was found that driver fatigue directly affected the level of hazard on the road. Uncontrolled workload and tiredness led to the fact that truckers fell asleep at the wheel. And accidents involving large vehicles are known to have more serious consequences. Therefore, in 1937, the government decided to record working hours for commercial drivers.

At first, this was done using paper HOS logs, but with the development of technology, special devices were invented. Advanced equipment guaranteed high data accuracy and eliminated human subjectivity.

Which automobile drivers must follow the established time limitations?

  • Truckers whose automobiles are heavier than 10,001 lb.
  • Truck drivers who are engaged in carrying  hazardous materials and their trucks require special labeling and marks.
  • Drivers operating passenger buses with 9-15 people on board.

The important point is that the aforementioned drivers have to be sure to use ELD to register their working hours in the USA. There are several categories of drivers who must track their working hours, but there are exclusions to the use of special recording equipment. According to Hours of Service, ELD is not obligatory for use if:

  • Drivers are involved in the evacuation of operated vehicles.
  • Operators travel short distances so they can use special time cards and also are not required to keep RODS.
  • CMV drivers usually use duty records less than 8 days within a 30-day time period.
  • Truckers operate commercial automobiles that are produced ealier than 2000 as far as they have no technical possibility to install ELD.

General DOT Hours of Service

Throughout its history, truck drivers' Hours of Service have been constantly changing and supplemented taking into account the needs of CMV drivers or the level of  traffic safety. So, for example, the latest changes were adopted in the fall of 2020. Details of all time limits can be seen on the official FMCSA website. By the way, it is worth noting that we have two basic categories of commercial drivers: operators who transport goods and drivers who transport passengers. There are slight differences in the regulations for them. Now we will look at the general provisions.

Hours of Service, trucking case:

  • 11-hour rule — This provision means that a commercial truck driver can operate a truck for a maximum of 11 hours and then he must take a 10-hour period of recreation. The standard is related only to the actual period of vehicle operating, not other work tasks.
  • 14-hour driving period or window — Just as a driver switches his status to On-Duty, his 14-hour operating time limit now begins. After this period ends, he is obliged to make a rest of 10 hours, even if within 14 hours he changes his status to Off-Duty or takes a sleep break.
  • 70 h/8 days or 60 h/7 days rule — There are two options of time periods and fleet owners can choose which one they follow. This norm means that when a trucker starts his On-Duty shift and begins driving he cannot go beyond 70/60 hours in 8/7 days. Anyway there is a way to reset this period due to a 34-hour restart.
  • 34-hour restart — The standard provides a possibility to reset the above mentioned 70/60-hours time periods. In this case, a driver has to take 34 consistent hours of Off-Duty status or Sleeper Berth.
  • 10-hour break — According to HOS, driver has to make a compulsory break that lasts a minimum of 10 hours and switch to Off-Duty or Sleeper Berth status after exceeding the 11-hour or 14-hour limitation.

Speaking about the human-carrying driver Hours of Service rules, they differentiate from property-carrying vehicle ones in the number of hours. For instance, human transportation operators can operate only 10 hours after 8-hour rest. Then their On-Duty period amounts to 15 hours. Also, passenger transporters are not allowed to take a 34-hour reset.

HOS Rules Changes Made in 2020

Further changes to HOS rules were made at the end of September 2020. Thus, the Agency aimed to give more flexibility to CMV drivers so that they are able more freely and conveniently manage their road time. These modifyings were made for four exceptions.

1. Modifyings affected the standard of a 30-minute break. What was it before? Until September 2020, such breaks were logged in the logbook with the Off-Duty or Sleeper Berth status. Now the commercial automobile driver can take this period of time in any mode. In addition, from now on, a 30-minute rest must be taken only if the commercial driver has spent 8 hours at the wheel. Previously, it was necessary to rest, regardless of whether it was a period of driving or the trucker was doing other work duties not related to driving.

2. The norm regarding the sleeper berth has also changed. Recall that a berth is a specially equipped area behind the trucker's cab, where he can sleep or relax in his free time. Totaled up, a CMV driver must spend 10 hours in a sleeping place. Previously, he could divide this time into 8 and 2 hours. At the same time, the 8-hour segment suspended the 14-hour period, and the 2-hour one did not. Now the commercial driver can also split the 10-hour rest into 7 and 3 hours. Nevertheless, regardless of how the berth limit is divided, both parts are not comprised in the 14-hour window.

3. Adverse conditions include situations arising suddenly and which the CMV driver cannot influence. Such conditions can include natural disasters, sudden changes in weather, or road accidents. This provision gives drivers permission to drive an additional 2 hours. Instead of 11 hours, they have 13 hours of vehicle operation available in a 14-hour period. The 14-hour period remains unchanged.

4. Also, the exception for truck drivers who travel short distances has now changed. It is now valid for truckers working within a 150-mile radius. Before that, the exemption was only granted for those working within 100 miles. In addition, the maximum working shift of drivers traveling on short distances can be 14 hours. Previously, such truckers could work 12 hours.

Hours of Service: Trucking Control and Fines

Truck driver Hours of Service are controlled by the Agency — FMCSA. Electronic logbooks are checked during DOT inspection. The drivers must strictly comply with the established rules of operating hours and record all status changes. Otherwise, they may receive fines. The amount of fines is contingent upon the specific HOS rule violation and can amount to both insignificant sums of money and reach more than 10 thousand dollars.

DOT reports on the most common road traffic violations every year. And those related to HOS are the most frequent. Below are the most popular ones.

  • Outdated entries in the logbook. Drivers must always enter up-to-date data in their logbooks, up to the last change in a duty status. Failure to do so can result in a CSA 5 offense.
  • Violation of the 14-hour driving window rule. The average fine for such a violation can be over $ 7,000. The same goes for the 11-hour driving rule.
  • Falsifying logbook data is considered a serious 7 point violation and can cause fines of $ 12,000 or more.

Hours of Service and ELD

In December 2019, ELD Mandate finally came into effect in the USA. From now on, commercial drivers should only use the latest equipment to record working hours. The mandate will soon enter into force in Canada — for now, it is allowed to use AOBRD there.

Due to ELD, HOS records have become more accurate due to the technical features of the device. The hardware connects directly to the commercial vehicle engine. It automatically changes statuses depending on the speed of the truck. The data received from the device is transferred to the driver's electronic logbook. Usually, equipment manufacturers provide their customers with special software that includes not only the logbook but also other useful functions.

Speaking about HOS, ELD allows CMV drivers to send the received records to other devices as well. This is a useful feature when a driver needs to transmit data about his working hours and duty statuses to the equipment of state authorities. For example, during DOT inspection. The official document stipulates that this can be done in several ways: via USB, Bluetooth, email, or special Internet service.

By the HOS recording and the ELD usage, it was possible to significantly decrease the traffic hazard level with the involvement of commercial automobiles. So, pursuant to the Agency, there are now almost 2000 fewer accidents than in earlier years. There were also fewer accidents with a traumatic outcome. In addition, adhering to working hours helps save about 26 lives each year.

By Denis Kirston
24 / 03 / 2021
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