Every year, approximately 100,000 accidents occur due to drowsy driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Out of those 100,000, around 71,000 accidents result in injury and another 1,550 result in fatalities. Unfortunately, these numbers are low, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Their more recent study shows the number of fatigue-related accidents to be 328,000 each year. For fleet companies, these numbers highlight the risks of drivers spending too much time on the road. This is the very foundation of the Hours of Service (HOS) rules.
Understanding Hours of Service rules will help keep your company safe and compliant. We’ll cover everything you need to know about the Hours of Service rules using an electronic logging device (ELD) below.
What is HOS (Hours of Service)?
Hours of Service refers to the allotment of hours a driver of commercial vehicles may operate. These regulations, mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), cap the hours a driver can work per day and week. These compliance regulations aim to limit and prevent fatigue experienced by commercial drivers. Most long-haul fleet drivers average 600 miles a day; multiply this by five to seven days per week, and you begin to see the risk clearly.
These risks have been apparent for a long time, which is why Hours of Service rules stretch back to the 1930s. Then, regulations restricted drivers to a 12-hour shift within a 15-hour period. It was also required that drivers take three hours worth of breaks in a 24-hour period and they must have nine hours of rest before their next shift. At the time, paper tracking was the sole means of ensuring compliance with HOS rules, so the manipulation of records was easy and frequent.
The current HOS rules permit commercial drivers to work 11 hours within a 14-hour period, though they must take a break every eight hours. There must also be 10 hours between shifts. The new HOS rules come with the recent ELD mandate as part of MAP-21.
Congress enacted MAP-21, or “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century”, to alter transportation. It changed the funding of highways and increased safety across the industry. For fleets, this meant the creation and implementation of the ELD mandate. The ELD mandate limits the risk of drowsy driving and ensures compliance with ELD devices.
Electronic logging devices are telematics devices that collect data on vehicle use. The ELD tracks the fleet vehicle, collecting data on running time and hours of service. This eliminates the ability to fudge numbers by drivers or their companies, thus reducing the risk to both fleet operators and average drivers on the road.
The ELD Hours of Service rules vary depending on the type of transportation the fleet operates in. Let’s get into those details below.
Hours of Service Rules & General Guidelines
Passenger-carrying fleets slightly differ from property-carrying fleets regarding Hours of Service rules. There is also a difference between service area fleets and national fleets. Drivers that only serve one area are subject to local and state regulations over federal. State-to-state drivers must comply with federal regulations.
In general, however, the new HOS rules are as follows:
- Each duty period, or workday, can only begin after 10 hours of off-duty rest.
- Drivers may not exceed more than 60 hours of duty within a 60-day period.
- A reset occurs after 34 consecutive hours of off-duty rest, afterwhich a workweek may start again.
- Drivers may work up to 15 hours within a workday, though they're limited to 11 driving hours.
- After eight hours of driving, drivers must take a 30-minute break.
- Drivers may work up to 70 hours within an eight-day week.
- An hours of service log must record drivers’ operation in real-time.
These are the general Hours of Service ELD rules that fleets must comply with, but there are some exceptions.
The 16-hour Exception
The 16-hour exception is one of the most frequently utilized. A driver may work a 16-hour shift if they only work one day a week. They must also begin and end their route at the same terminal, and they may not use this exception until they’ve had a 34-hour reset. This exception does not apply if the driver has a layover.
The 30-minute Break Exemption
Short-haul drivers who qualify for the 150 air-mile radius, and who operate non-CDL vehicles, are exempt from the 30-minute break requirement.
Adverse Driving Conditions Exemption
The maximum of 11 driving hours may extend to 13 hours in the case of adverse conditions. However, drivers must not have known about the conditions before they began driving. This exemption also does not extend the drive-time window, meaning drivers must still end their shift after 15 hours.
In the case of an emergency, hours of service rules may be temporarily suspended. However, this only applies if there is a federal or state declaration of emergency.
Avoiding Penalties for Hours of Service Noncompliance
When drivers or fleet companies violate the Hours of Service rules, they face major consequences. The driver or company could be temporarily placed out of service, and they may face penalty fines by both state and federal authorities. A fleet company’s CSA scores may also drop due to their lack of compliance with the new HOS rules. If there is a pattern of violations, a fleet company’s driver safety rating will also take a hit. If the pattern is severe, they may lead to criminal penalties. This could result in a complete shutdown of a fleet company.
This isn’t the only danger in noncompliance with the new hours of service ELD regulations. If the driver has an accident, and it results in injury or death, the penalties may be severe, resulting in potential losses of several millions of dollars. The driver may even face a jail sentence.
To avoid this, seek the best electronic logging device (ELD) solutions. An ELD is, essentially, an hours of service log. The device connects to the OBD port of a fleet vehicle's engine. There, it gathers data on the vehicle throughout the day. It feeds that data to the connected software, viewed by drivers and/or managers via app. The device provides an accurate reading of HOS logs for compliance assurance, but that’s not all these devices can do.