Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

Understanding Hours of Service: What You Need to Know

U.S. Hours of Service and Canada Hours of Service rules have changed a lot over the years. From frustrated drivers to confused fleet managers, we get inundated with requests to decode FMCSA’s regulations. So, we’ve decided to tackle the 60/7 vs. 70/8 rule, recaptured hours — or the hours of service (HOS) recap — and FMCSA’s Final Rule.

We want to be sure you have a clear understanding of what’s mandatory, what’s not, and how it all works — so we’re kicking things off with the basics.

Hours of Service Definition

First of all, what even is "hours of service" and what does it mean for you? According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), "Hours of service refers to the maximum amount of time drivers are permitted to be on duty including driving time, and specifies the number and length of rest periods, to help ensure that drivers stay awake and alert." (FMCSA)

60/7 vs 70/8 Rule

The 70-hour in 8 days rule — or 60 hours in 7 days rule — is the total time a driver is allowed to spend driving and on duty. They cannot exceed working 70 hours in any 8-day period or 60 hours in any 7-day period. In other words, drivers have a limited number of hours they can be on duty per week.

The purpose of hours of service "promulgated by the US Department of Transportation and now its Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to regulate truck driver time on the road and other behaviors meant to increase safety in trucking - while still keeping the goods moving." (Supply Chain Digest)

Recapture On-Duty Hours With HOS Recap

Let’s say you’re operating on the 70/8 rule set (or, put more simply, that you can’t be on duty for more than 70 hours during the course of eight consecutive days).

If today were an on-duty day for you, it would be Day 1. You’d then have to add your Day 1 hours to the on-duty hours you accumulated during the course of the previous seven. As your block of eight days advances at 12 o’clock midnight, you recapture the on-duty Hours of Service that have dropped off your log at 12:01 AM. 

We get a lot of questions about the hours of service recap, and many come from new drivers. So, let’s talk through an example.

Assume you’re brand new to the job, and you started on a Monday without any previous on-duty HOS to take into consideration. If you work 8-1/2 on-duty hours each day—from your first day on the job until the following Monday — you’ll have accumulated 68 hours on duty.

When you roll into Tuesday, your Day 8 shifts from the Monday of last week to the previous Tuesday. And the 8-1/2 hours that just fell off your rolling total (shown in light blue)? They’re now available to you again.

FMCSA's Final Rule on Hours of Service

On May 14 2020, FMCSA released a Final Rule updating current Hours of Service (HOS) regulations in an effort to increase safety for all drivers across the U.S. while workings simultaneously to improve commercial driver flexibility and satisfaction. This announcement comes just one day after the FMCSA released an extension to the HOS exemption released in an Emergency Declaration this past March.

With regard to the Final Rule, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao had this to say: “America’s truckers are doing a heroic job keeping our supply chains open during this unprecedented time, and these rules will provide them greater flexibility to keep America moving.”

The Final Rule is best outlined by comparing and contrasting the modifications to these 4 previous rules:

1. CMV short-haul exception: The previous rule stated that drivers could not be on duty more than 12 hours and could not drive past a 100 air-mile radius. The new HOS rule extends the maximum duty period allowed under the short-haul exception to 14 hours and 150 air miles.  Drive time remains unchanged and limited to 11 hours.

2. Adverse driving conditions: The past HOS rule stated that a driver may not drive more than 2 additional hours beyond the maximum time allotted, and it did not extend the maximum driving window. The new rule allows a driver to extend the maximum driving window by up to 2 hours during adverse driving conditions.

3. 30-minute break: The previous rule stated that a driver must take a minimum 30-minute, off-duty break before driving if more than 8 consecutive hours have passed since the last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes. The new rule requires a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving time, instead of on-duty time, and it allows on-duty not driving periods to qualify as breaks.

4. Split-sleeper berth: The past HOS rule stated that a driver can use the sleeper berth for an 8/2 split to satisfy the 10-hour rest period requirement — which is 8 hours of rest in the berth that does not count against the 14-hour limit, and 2 additional hours of off-duty time (in or outside of the berth) that does count against the 14-hour driving window. The new rule modifies this exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 split or a 7/3 split, with neither period counting against the driver’s 14-hour driving window.

Omnitracs and Hours of Service

It’s important to note that the new rule changes do not increase driving time and will continue to prevent commercial motor vehicle operators from driving more than 8 consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute break. While these changes to the Hours of Service rules do not impact the ELD regulations, Omnitracs is committed to making the appropriate enhancements to our ELD platforms to allow motor carriers and drivers to monitor compliance with the HOS regulations.

Our team at Omnitracs values the incredible work everyone in our industry puts in on a regular basis. We believe in the importance of driver safety since truck drivers are responsible for so much. To learn more about Canada Hours or Service or U.S. Hours of Service, explore our solutions to see how we can help you improve your fleet safety.