November 22, 2019
Pitts Carr and Alex Weatherby
What are a truck driver’s hours of service?
A truck driver has specific rules that control the number of hours that they can operate a truck. This includes hours controlling the number of hours a truck driver can operate a truck in a single day, as well as the number of hours in a week.
The rules are divided into whether or not the driver is hauling property or people. In the case of people, like for example a bus driver, the time periods change. For a property operating commercial motor vehicle, there are several limits.
First, there is a 14-hour driving window limit. A driver is permitted a period of 14 consecutive hours in which to drive up to 11 hours of time. Once that period expires, the driver is required to take 10 consecutive hours off before driving again. This regulation is § 395.3(a)(2).
Second, during the 14 consecutive hour period explained above, a driver is permitted to operate his truck for up to 11 total hours. A break is required after 8 hours of driving. The break must be at least 30 minutes. This regulation is § 395.3(a)(3). The thirty-minute rest break requires that a driver not drive more than 8 hours consecutively without stopping for at least 30 minutes. This can be done during a meal or any other time in which the driver is not working for 30 minutes.
Third, there is a 60/70-hour limit. This limit is based on a 7 or 8 day period respectively. This is sometimes referred to a “weekly” limit. Importantly, however, the 7-8 day period does not have to begin at the start of the week. It refers to the days immediately prior to the current day. The 60-hour for 7 day limit applies to drivers of trucking companies that operate tractor trailers less than 7 days per week. The 70-hour for 8 day limit applies to drivers of trucking companies that operate tractor trailers every day of the week.
In the event that a driver reaches this 60/70 hour limit, the driver cannot drive again until they go off duty a sufficient amount of time to bring them below this limit. Under these circumstances, the driver may still work but cannot drive until they are off duty the amount of time. Off-Duty means not working at the plant or facility, not doing paperwork, not caring for the truck, and not working another job. Importantly, excluded from on-duty time is time in the sleeper berth of a tractor trailer. The full description of what constitutes off-duty time is found in § 395.2.
There are several important exceptions to the hours of service rules. One of the most significant, for CDL drivers, is the 100 air-mile radius exception. The 100 air-mile exception exempts a driver from the log-book reporting requirements, as well as the 30 minute break requirement. To qualify for the exception, the driver must operate within a “100 air-mile radius” of his normal work reporting location. The driver must return to this work reporting location within 12 hours. The driver is still subject to the 10 hour off duty requirement and 11 hour driving requirements. This exception is found in § 395.1(e)(2).
Another important exception is for “adverse driving conditions.” In the event of unexpected adverse conditions, the truck driver may drive an additional 2 hours during the 14 hour period outlined above. This means that the driver may operate for up to 13 hours. Adverse conditions can mean things like snow or fog. They also can mean traffic under the right circumstances. Other conditions may qualify as well, and it is important to have a Georgia truck accident lawyer review the facts and circumstances of the case. This exception is found in § 395.1(b).
An additional important exception is the 16-hour short haul exception. If a driver returns and reports from the same location and has for the prior 5 days, then the driver can extend the on-duty time to 16-hours for one day during a 7-8 day period. This is found in §395.1(o).
The rules are complex, and there are many other exceptions and restrictions. A knowledgeable Atlanta truck accident attorney, like Carr & Weatherby, can help you understand the rules and application to your case.