For any new truck driver, or even long-time haulers, it is important to stay up to date and educated on all regulations as outlined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in order to maintain compliance and ensure safe practices on the road.
As a commercial vehicle driver, you are subject to periodic safety inspections. For this reason it is vital that you have all your ducks in a row, especially when it comes to hours of service (HOS) regulations, in order to avoid costly and potentially license-revoking HOS violations. All carriers and drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) must abide by HOS regulations as outlined in section 49 CFR 395 of FMCSA guidelines.
What are hours of service regulations?
As stated in FMCSA guidelines, hours of service “refers to the maximum amount of time drivers are permitted to be on duty including drive time, and specifies number and length of rest periods, to help ensure drivers stay awake and alert.”
These regulations are set in place to prevent a driver from operating a vehicle unsafely due to overexertion and fatigue from long stretches behind the wheel. Driving fatigued can put both driver and public at risk, so a violation of these limits carries hefty fines and other potential hours of service violation penalties.
Hours of service violation consequences
HOS violations can have severe consequences, including expensive fines that can add up quickly for any fleet. Each violation is also assigned a number of HOS violation points depending on the severity. These points are detrimental to a fleet's overall Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) score, which is used by the FMCSA to identify high-risk carriers and drivers that may require intervention.
Maintaining a good CSA score is important to a fleet as this directly affects business opportunities. It is essential for carriers and drivers to maintain compliance to protect the carrier’s bottom line and ensure safety for all on the road. The best way to maintain compliance is to establish good practices through education.
Top 5 common HOS violations
Below we outline 5 of the most common hours of service violations.
1. Operating past allowed hours of on-duty driving limits
In order to maintain safe driver operations, the FMCSA has set driving limits for both property-carrying and passenger-carrying drivers. Property-carrying drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Passenger-carrying drivers are allowed a 10-hour driving limit after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
These limits pertain to driving time, not total time on duty. There are separate duty limits. Driving time is defined as actual time spent at the controls of the vehicle in operation.
2. Operating past allowed hours of duty on-duty limits
In addition to driving limits, the FMCSA has set limits to duty time. On-duty time for a driver means all the time from when a driver begins work until they are relieved of work or no longer required to perform work. This includes cumulative driving time, breaks, and stops.
Per FMCSA regulations, property-carrying drivers have a 14-hour duty period limit, also known as the 14-hour rule. This means that property carrying drivers may not drive past the 14th consecutive hour on duty, after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Passenger-carrying drivers have a 15-hour duty period limit, after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
There is only one exception for both driving and duty limits: the adverse driving conditions exemption. Drivers are allowed to extend their limits by up to 2 hours in adverse driving conditions, which include snow, ice, sleet, and fog that were not known at the time of beginning a duty day or after a rest.
Just as with drive time, operating past duty limits is considered a critical violation that can have serious consequences with hefty HOS violation fines.
3. Driving more than 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days
In addition to daily regulations, drivers are subject to limits over the course of several days. Both property-carrying drivers and passenger-carrying drivers must not drive after 60 hours on duty over 7 consecutive days or 70 hours on duty in 8 consecutive days. Drivers can begin another 60- or 70-hour period after taking a minimum of 34 consecutive hours off duty. This is also known as the 70-hour 8-day rule.
4. Inaccurate record of duty statuses
Whenever a driver is on duty, it is important that they keep up-to-date and complete records to maintain compliance. Per FMCSA regulations section 395.8, a motor carrier must ensure each driver maintains an accurate log of duty status for each 24-hour period. Every driver needs to record their hours to ensure they are not in violation of the regulations.
Logbook violation fines are no laughing matter. DOT log violations can also severely affect CSA scores and potentially put a driver out of service altogether.
As of Dec. 18, 2017, drivers must record their hours of service using an FMCSA-compliant electronic logging device (ELD), unless they fall within a few ELD exemptions. ELDs are the new standard for record of duty status. They work by automatically syncing with a commercial vehicle's engine to track and record driving time, HOS, engine run times, vehicle location and movement, and miles driven.
5. Falsifying logs
Another common driver HOS violation involves knowingly falsifying records. A failure to keep accurate HOS logs is a critical mistake, but so too is attempting to tamper with them. It may be tempting given the severity of punishment for poor record keeping but maintaining compliance in the first place is a far better route.
Prior to the ELD mandate, drivers complied with HOS regulations in the form of paper logs, which were far easier to falsify and harder to enforce. Thankfully, ELDs empower drivers with an efficient new tool that takes some of the manual labor out of the equation for streamlined processes and easier record-keeping.
Lytx DOT compliance services can help prevent HOS violations
Beyond ELD management, DOT compliance solutions and software offer a powerful opportunity for fleets to streamline what can often be overwhelming compliance-related tasks, reducing overall fleet risk through automated processes.
DOT compliance services can provide support for not just HOS tracking, but managing Driver-Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs), auditing DOT driver qualification (DQ) files, and supervising CSA data, including CSA violations.