The number of hours a truck driver is allowed to work each day and each week is heavily regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The exact number of hours each driver is allowed to be on duty depends on several factors, including whether the driver is carrying property or passengers.
Drivers who carry cargo that is property and not passengers are allowed to drive for a maximum of 11 hours each day, which must be followed by a period of at least 10 hours of off-duty time. The driver also cannot legally drive after being on duty for 14 consecutive hours, following a rest period of at least 10 hours. Another restriction is that drivers cannot be on duty for more than 60 hours in any period of seven days or 70 hours within an eight day period.
Driving hours are also restricted for drivers who drive commercial vehicles to haul people, such as tour bus drivers. These drivers are permitted to drive for a maximum of 10 hours after a rest period of eight consecutive hours of off-duty time. In addition, the driver is not permitted to drive after being on duty for more than 15 continuous hours after they have been off-duty for at least eight consecutive hours. Drivers who carry passengers in commercial vehicles also must follow weekly hours of service restrictions. They may not be on-duty for more than 60 hours in any seven day period or 70 hours in any eight day period.
The time that a driver is refueling, loading, performing minor maintenance on their truck or unloading is considered on-duty, not driving. The driver is performing tasks that are part of the job, so this time is counted against the 14 hours they are permitted to be on duty after a 10-hour rest period, even if they are not actually behind the wheel of their truck.
When a driver is off-duty, he or she is not permitted to do any activities that are part of their job. Each driver must be off-duty for at least 10 hours after starting a period of on-duty time. The driver must also be off-duty for at least 34 consecutive hours before starting another cycle of working 60 hours in seven days or 70 hours in eight days. These must be off-duty, non-driving hours, when the driver isn’t doing anything related to driving or the load they are carrying.
Hours of Service Violation Penalties
A commercial vehicle driver who is found to be in violation of HOS rules may be forced to stay on the side of the road until they have been off-duty for the appropriate amount of time. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has the authority to give drivers and the companies they drive for tickets that range from $1,000 to $10,000 each time a driver is driving outside of his allotted driving hours. The company may even face criminal charges if the FMSCA believes that they knowingly violated HOS regulations.