July 11, 2013

Managing the FMCSA’s new mandatory 30-minute rest break for truckers could be a bigger headache than you realize—especially if you operate a truckload/LTL business.

How so? Mismanage your drivers’ time and they could be forced to take not one, but two 30-minute breaks during their days—or worse, rack up violations.

Do you know how to use the mandatory 30-minute rest break correctly?

What you need to know about the mandatory 30-minute rest break

The language on the FMCSA’s website reads:

“May drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since end of driver’s last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes.”

What that doesn’t mean: If your drivers take a 30-minute break anytime during the first eight hours of their shift, they’re good to go.

Because that’s what some of the news stories we’ve read lately might lead you to believe.


It means they can’t drive after any eight-hour on-duty stretch, until they’ve completed a 30-minute off-duty rest period.

So, if they were on-duty for an hour, took a 30-minute rest break, and then continued to log on-duty time, they’d have to take a second 30-minute rest break at hour 9-1/2 before they could climb back behind the wheel.

And remember, those mandatory 30-minute rest breaks don’t extend your drivers’ 14-hour limits.

Get this wrong and their available drive time windows shrink from 13-1/2 hours to 13—an error that could potentially cost you and your drivers money.

Build the mandatory 30-minute rest break into your operational plan

This new rule will be a headache for some, but one that can be overcome with planning.

Let’s consider food service…

Assume a reefer driver completes his pre-trip and leaves the Twin Cities west metro at 5 AM. Destination: Mall of America, 15 miles away. That driver then serves nine different restaurants, all at the same location—a job that might burn six hours of on-duty time.

Now, if that driver turns around and heads eight miles up the I-494 corridor to service four Bloomington, MN restaurants, all situated within a ¼ mile radius, they could easily violate the mandatory 30-minute rest break rule if they get too caught up in their load plan and fail to take a break.

Never mind that—including the Bloomington deliveries—the driver has only logged 24 miles behind the wheel.

Timed incorrectly, your drivers could reduce their now 13-1/2 hour window to 13.

So, if you want to avoid a scenario where your drivers would have to take two 30-minute rest breaks during the same day, we suggest they time that mandatory break between the 5-1/2-hour and 8-hour mark.

In the case of this food service driver, a dispatcher would be wise to advise an 11AM lunch.

The importance of knowing your Hours of Service rules

Hours of Service compliance is absolutely critical to your fleet’s competitive advantage.

With shippers now worrying about vicarious liability, they’re scrutinizing the compliance histories of the carriers they hire. If you don’t fully understand what the new rules really mean, you could take a CSA score hit—and find it harder to land contracts.

So, take the time to grasp what these rules mean for your drivers, and build a plan that will ensure they’re running HOS compliant.

It may mean the difference between getting the freight—and watching your trucks sit idle in your yard.