2021 DOT Hours of Service Exemptions: What You Need to Know


DOT HOS exemptions

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a stand-alone Department of Transportation (DOT) agency, has developed a detailed set of rules designed to keep roads safe by ensuring drivers limit the long hours they spend behind the wheel. These Hours of Service regulations apply to all DOT regulated commercial motor vehicle operators in the US.

It’s important to note that the ELD compliance mandate is an extension of the Hours of Service rules, attempting to create an easier system for tracking and manage records of duty status (RODS). As of December 2017, all vehicles subject to the ELD mandate must record Hours of Service electronically to maintain DOT compliance.

Below is an overview of the DOT Hours of Service (HOS) regulations and exemptions.

Hours of Service regulations

For property-driving commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), here are some of the most important HOS rules to remember, as outlined by the FMSCA:

  • 14-Hour Shift Limit: CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) drivers may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, but can resume driving after 10 consecutive, off-duty hours.
  • 11-Hour Driving Limit: Drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours within the 14-hour window, after 10 consecutive, off-duty hours.
  • 30-Minute Breaks: Drivers may not drive if 8 hours have passed since the last off-duty period of at least 30 consecutive minutes. Operators can perform non-driving tasks after 8 hours without a break, but cannot drive.
  • 60/70-Hour Limit: Drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. Operators can restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive, off-duty hours.

It’s important to remember these rules, and how to figure out a way to track them. More to come on HOS tracking solutions later…keep reading.


DOT Hours of Service exemptions

Under certain conditions, commercial drivers are exempt from the HOS rules outlined above. Here are five of the most commonly used DOT Hours of Service exemptions:

1. 16-Hour Short-Haul Exemption

If drivers started and ended their day at the same work location for the past 5 days, they can extend the 14-hour shift limit and complete their 11 hours of driving within 16 hours once every 7 consecutive days.

2. 100 Air-Mile Short-Haul Exemption

CDL drivers who operate within a 100 air-mile (a nautical mile that measures distance in a straight line) radius of their daily starting location, end their shift at the same location within 12 hours, and have at least 10 consecutive, off-duty hours between each 12-hour shift do not need to complete an ELD log and are exempt from the 30-minute break rule. This is most often used by drivers who complete daily deliveries or only travel short distances.

3. 150 Air-Mile Radius Exemption

Non-CDL drivers who operate within a 150 air-mile (a nautical mile that measures distance in a straight line) radius of their daily starting location, end their shift at the same location, and do not drive after the 14th hour of coming on duty in a period of 7 consecutive days do not need to complete an ELD log and are exempt from the 30-minute break rule.

4. >8-Day RODS Exemption

Drivers who maintain a RODS (Record of Duty Status) for fewer than 8 days within a 30-day period are exempt from completing ELDs. This applies to drivers who meet all requirements of the short-haul exemption but sometimes drive outside of the designated radius. 

5. Adverse Driving Conditions Exemption

Drivers may extend the maximum driving limit from 11 to 13 hours when encountering adverse driving conditions, such as weather changes or road closures. The exemption is only applicable if the adverse conditions could not have been known before the driver started driving. This exemption does not extend the 14-hour driving period. It means that all 13 hours of driving must still be completed within the 14-hour window.


Proposed new DOT Hours of Service exemptions

In August, the FMCSA issued a proposal that would add flexibility to HOS rules and simplify fleet management. While these revisions have not been approved yet, here’s what could change with existing HOS regulations:

  • Satisfy the 30-minute break rule by using on-duty, not driving status, rather than off-duty status.
  • Split the required 10 off-duty hours into two periods: at least 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and at least 2 consecutive hours either off-duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14-hour driving window.
  • Allow one off-duty break of 30 minutes to 3 hours that would pause a driver’s 14-hour window. The driver must take 10 consecutive, off-duty hours at the end of their shift.
  • Change the 100 air-mile short-haul exemption by lengthening a driver’s maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit from 100 to 150 air miles.
  • Extend the maximum window for adverse driving conditions by 2 hours.

Hours of Service changes in response to Covid-19

Covid-19 has recently changed everything for fleets, including relaxing certain hours of service rules. Stay up to date on all the latest HOS and other regulatory updates from the DOT and FMCSA in response to the pandemic with these articles:

Hours of Service Relief: Latest COVID-19 Updates How COVID-19 is Impacting Transportation Regulations and Compliance


DOT Hours of Service solutions

If you’re worried about navigating FMCSA’s regulations and ensuring you’re taking the right exemptions, you’re not alone. Lytx can help you easily adhere to DOT regulations with a service that’s built to track HOS.

However your company currently tracks hours—from paper logs to ELDs—we can consolidate your RODS into a single, online system. Stay compliant with the ELD mandate by using Lytx® Compliance Services to audit all documents, in any format. You’ll have access to customized dashboards and reporting to help you identify compliance risks. Everything you need to help you meet DOT Hours of Service regulations (and qualify for exemptions) will be in one platform.

Try HOS management software free for 30 days.

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