Truck Drivers

New Hours of Service Rules – What Does it Mean for You? 

In a year that has presented a number of challenges for fleets and drivers to overcome, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s updates to its hours of service (HOS) rules couldn’t have come at a better time.  

In case you missed it, the final HOS rule went into effect on Sept. 29 and it includes four amendments that will provide drivers more flexibility while maintaining a high standard of safety on the roads. It’s a triple-win for drivers, fleets and the safety administration. 

So, what changed? And what can you expect as a result? Let’s breakdown the details of these new rule changes. 

Changes to the short-haul exception 

Under the previous short-haul exception, drivers using the exception could not drive beyond a 100 air-mile radius from where they began their shift or be on-duty for more than 12 hours. The new rules loosen those restrictions, extending the distance drivers can travel to 150 air-mile radius and it allows for drivers to be on-duty for up to 14 hours. 

Similar to the previous short-haul exception, in order to qualify, drivers must begin and end their shift in the same location. And, drivers must have 10 hours of off-duty time in-between shifts. With the short-haul exception, drivers are not required to take a 30-minute break from driving or record hours in a graph grid lock or ELD. Rather, drivers can simply record hours in a time record. It’s important to note that drivers who do not meet the requirements for the short-haul exception 8 or more days in a 30-day period will need to begin recording drive time on a regular time log or ELD. 

To paint a picture of how the new short-haul exception works, take a look at the following example: 

A driver reports for work at 8 a.m. and is released at 10 p.m. During that time, the driver spent 10 hours driving, and 4 hours on breaks or on-duty, but not driving. The driver reported back to the same location where he began his shift and didn’t travel beyond the required 150 air-mile radius. In total, the driver spent 14 hours on-duty. Following the drivers shift, the driver had 10 hours of off-duty time before reporting back to work the next day. 

Adverse Driving Conditions 

With the new changes to the adverse driving conditions exception, drivers are able to extend their on-duty time by hours when unforeseen driving conditions affect a drivers’ route. Under the previous rule, a driver could extend their drive time by up to 2 hours, but since they were unable to extend their on-duty time, the provision was rarely used. Now, drivers using the exception can drive up to 13 hours within a 16-hour window.  

In the new rule, the FMCSA updated its definition of ‘adverse driving conditions’ to include the role of the driver. According to the FMCSA, adverse driving conditions means snow, ice, sleet, fog, or other adverse driving conditions or unusual road or traffic conditions that were not known, or could not be reasonably known, to… 

  • …A driver immediately before beginning the duty day or immediately before beginning driving after a qualifying rest break or sleeper berth period, or 
  • A motor carrier immediately prior to dispatching the driver 

Here’s an example of a driver using the new adverse driving conditions exception: 

Nearing the end of the driver’s destination, he discovers the state patrol just closed an upcoming bridge due to a car accident. Hours of service are ticking – the driver needs to cross the bridge to reach his final destination as there are no alternative routes. With 1-hour left of driving time and 1-hour left in the driving day, the driver pulls over at an upcoming exit and waits for an hour for the bridge to clear. Once clear, the driver completes his journey to the final destination, which takes an hour. So, in this case, our driver spent a total of 12 hours driving, 1-hour on-duty but not driving and 1-hour off-duty while waiting for the bridge to clear. In this case, there is no violation of the 14-hour limit under the new adverse driving conditions exception. 

30-Minute Break Changes 

Prior to the FMCA’s rule changes on 30-minute breaks, drivers were required to take a 30-minute break after being on-duty for hours. To fill the requirement, drivers needed to be ‘off-duty’ or spend the time in the sleeper berth.  

The new rules don’t eliminate the 30-minute break, but it does allow drivers to fulfill that time through on-duty, non-driving tasksDrivers still have the option to spend their break ‘off-duty’ or in their sleeper.

This new rule change allows drivers to be productive – maximizing time during a break. For instance, drivers can now complete tasks such as re-fueling or checking to make sure their loads are secure.  

Sleeper Berth Provision Changes 

In the previous rules, a minimum of 8 hours was required for drivers to spend in their sleeper berth, which was excluded from the 14-hour driving window. The remaining 2 or more hours, during a rest period was included in the 14-hour driving window.  

The new rule changes allow for more flexibility in how drivers split up their 10-hour off-duty period as long as the following requirements are met: 

  • One off-duty period (whether in or out of the sleeper berth) is at least 2 hours long, AND 
  • The other involves at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth 
  • When off-duty time periods are paired, neither counts against the 14-hour driving window 
  • 8-hour sleeper-berth period by itself can no longer be excluded from the 14-hour driving window 

To simplify, drivers can now split up their off-duty time 8/2, 7/3, or even 7.5/2.5. Neither period counts against the 14-hour driving window.  

For example, say a driver is on-duty beginning at 9 a.m. and begins driving at 11 a.m. The driver then pulls over after six hours on the road and takes a 3-hour break until 8 p.m. The driver then goes back on-duty and drives 5 more hours or until 1 a.m. The driver then goes back into his sleeper to rest until 8 a.m. In this example, the break periods didn’t count against the drivers 14-hour driving and they clocked in 11 hours of drive time. 

We hope these news rules make life a bit easier on the road. For those looking to get a better understanding of the new HOS rules, check out FMCSA’s educational tool