Truckers Hours Of Service And Legal Issues

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(Last Updated On: November 4, 2017)

In my previous article, I gave a general rundown on what you will need to know when getting into the training segment of your career. Over the next few articles, I’ll get into more detail about things you’ll be learning.

 

Hours Of Service Regulations

 

To begin, truck drivers have a limit on how much driving they can do each week.

Once you begin your day you have a 14-hour clock that runs continuously. No matter what you do during that time, the 14-hour clock still counts down.

HOS1

You can not drive after 8 hours without taking a 30-minute off-duty break at some point during that 8 hours. In order to avoid having to take two breaks, if you’re planning on driving 11 hours, it’s best to wait until after you’ve been driving 3 hours or more before taking your break.

Once you’re done for the day you need a minimum of a 10-hour break before you get your 14 hours back.

Each week you have a total of 70 hours. This includes driving time and on-duty time. On-duty consists of things like getting fuel, loading, and unloading, or any activity you do that is job-related but isn’t driving. Once you go over the 70 hours you can not drive anymore until you have hours available to do so. You can be on duty as much as you like, whether you have hours available or not, you just can’t drive.

As it stands right now, you can do a log reset anytime you want to. This involves taking 34 consecutive hours off-duty and will give you your full 70 hours back once that is complete. However, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) is attempting to set it up where you can do only one reset in a week, arguing if you do more you will be able to drive more than 70 hours that week. Personally, I don’t see how taking more than one 34 hour break translates into having more hours to drive each week considering you still have to take at least 10 hours off each day, but that is what their math says.

There are some things you can do to extend the 14-hour day, such as split logging, and other little tricks to save time but that is something your trainer will have to get into with you.

 

LOGS

 

Logbook
Click on image to see full size

Your logbook is where you keep a record of your activities over a 24 hour period. It’s a federal law that all truck drivers, except local drivers, must keep an up-to-date log and when you get pulled into a scale house, or get pulled over on the road for an inspection and/or to have your paperwork checked, the first thing the inspector is going to ask is to see your logbook. It is supposed to be kept current as of your last change of duty status. An example of a change of status is going from driving to off duty. Most of the time they will allow you to update the log up to the time they pulled you in. They are very serious about logs so you want to keep it legal. If it isn’t the inspector can and will shut you down for 10 hours as well as writing you a ticket. It will also go on your CSA score.

CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) is a system that was implemented a few years ago that grades a driver and company on many things, such as passed or failed inspections, accidents, and just about anything having to do with the job. So if you get any ticket, even in your personal vehicle, it will be on your record for any company to see and it could CSAcost you your job as well as prevent you from getting a job with another company.

So you see, you want to keep your record as clean as possible so you must make sure your log is legal. The log department in most companies takes it very seriously too and if there is one place in a company you don’t want to anger, it’s the safety/log department.

Many companies use e-logs. These are done through your qualcomm or whatever satellite communication system your company uses. These are good because you don’t have to keep the log by hand so there is a lot less chance to make a mistake. The e-log will put you on driving automatically after a certain distance, the distance being something the company will determine. After driving, once you turn the key off, it automatically puts you on duty so you have to manually put yourself off duty. Otherwise, you’ll come out from lunch and see you lost 30 minutes off of your allotted 70 hours for the week.You need to approve your logs in the system at least once a day but I recommend you do it every time you stop because at the end of the day you will have a long list of things to scan through to make sure they are correct and by then you may be pretty tired and not see mistakes before you approve them. So do yourself a favor and update them as you go through the day. You are able to edit your sleeper berth, off-duty and on-duty not driving sections but it’s easier if you just make sure things are good to go to begin with. With most companies, if you edit anything, you have to also give a reason for the edit.

elog1
Qualcomm e-log. Click for larger image.

One of the big differences between e-logs and paper logs is that everything in a paper log is done in 15-minute blocks. So if you stop for 10 minutes you still have to log it as 15 minutes, so you just lost 5 minutes at that stop. With e-logs, everything is done in 1-minute increments and over the course of a week, each minute you save can add up and result in the opportunity to make more money.

There are drivers out there that don’t like e-logs but I would guess they have never tried them. They argue it will hurt their income. The logic makes no sense because of the 1-minute system it uses and it does give you extra time to work with. Before my company switched I was totally against e-logs. Once I got one I loved it. It does make for a lot less work. There is no way I would ever drive for a company anymore that uses paper logs.

Another advantage, the e-log will not let you work illegally. It will warn you before you get into that situation. For example, it will alert you when you are 1 hour from your allotted driving time or 14-hour limit, then again when you’re 30 minutes away and again when you’re 15 minutes away. If you do run illegally it will be your decision and an inspection officer will know it.

There is a 2-hour exemption, the safe haven rule, that can be used to drive over your 11 hours but that is something your trainer will have to go into. However, here is where you get an explanation of the rule. If it doesn’t make sense right now, don’t worry about it. Ask your trainer to go into it.

So, when looking for a company I would recommend asking if they use e-logs or paper logs. Any company using paper logs will have to switch eventually since the FMCSA has mandated them being used in all trucks but many of the major companies have already switched or will be switching voluntarily. It’s still being fought in the courts.

 

Legal Issues

 

Semi Truck

You may hear that with e-logs you will have to drive faster and more reckless because of the time limitations, etc., but whether you use a paper log or e-log, you still have the same laws and regulations you have to follow. The difference is you can cheat with a paper log, and if you want to do that, do it at your own risk. If the inspector feels you have intentionally falsified your log you can be arrested and put in jail. The log book is a legal document and, like any legal document, misrepresentation can cause you a lot of problems, so it’s better not to risk it.

Another thing many drivers don’t think about. An inspection officer can determine your average speed by figuring out how long it took you to get from one place to another based on your log. So, if your log says you traveled 140 miles in 2 hours, and the speed limit along the route you took is 55 MPH you will get a speeding ticket. So just make sure you watch the speed limits wherever you go.

As I mentioned briefly before, when you have a CDL any ticket you get in your personal vehicle will also be added to your CSA. The FMCSA figures how you drive your car represents how you will drive a truck so all that information is kept.


Hopefully, you understand truckers hours of service and legal issues a little better.

Feel free to ask a question in the ‘Ask Question’ section of the menu bar above. If I left anything out I hope other drivers will mention them.

 

The next article will deal with inspection issues.

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44 Thoughts to “Truckers Hours Of Service And Legal Issues”

  1. Dean

    What would you recommend on taking breaks during shifts? I’ve heard that it’s not good to sit more than 2 hours at once, but we can’t take a break that often. Driving at nights may require more breaks.

    1. Dennis

      Any break you take is counted toward the 14 hours total you have to work during the day so you want to keep the number of breaks to a minimum. The only exception is split logging but that is too complicated to get into in a comments section.

      A 30-minute break within the first 8 hours of driving is required. Some like to take the break early , others later. I prefer to get it out of the way early but I always took mine sometime after 4 hours of driving so that a second 30-minute break wouldn’t be needed for the duration of my driving time.

      1. Dean

        I thought you would have taken the break somewhere in the middle (after 6-7 hours) so the second half of work hours won’t be too hard. Tips on what to do during breaks to keep our condition healthy sounds like a good article idea!

        1. Dennis

          It’s up to the driver. I liked driving and hated having to take a break so I would get it out of the way as early as possible. Others like to do most of their driving after the break. Whatever floats their boat. 🙂

        2. jeff

          I have been in different trucks with different truckers and I can understand what Dennis means when he says that the manner in which breaks are taken will depend on the driver(s). There is no standard way of doing this.

          1. Dennis

            Every person’s body is different. People can also adapt. I drove primarily at night. When I retired and started working in the day I was dead tired for a few months because my clock was used to working at night. Truck drivers are a different breed than your average Joe but the FMCSA keeps using college students who have had a few drinks to play the role of a tired trucker. Most of the studies I’ve seen have not included seasoned truckers.

  2. djanana

    Does driving for more than 70 hours mean more allowances? It is important for a driver to take a much needed break so as not to burn out plus I did not know that putting false information in the logs can land a driver in jail. I am for the e-logs because technology is here to help and allow us to concentrate on the core business. A lot of paperwork is a distraction.

    1. Dennis

      You can’t drive if you have worked more than 70 hours in an 8 day period. By work, that includes anything you’re doing while on-duty in your log. You can work 24/7 forever but you can’t drive once that 70 hour point has been reached until a full 36 hours of off-duty time is logged.

      A log is a legal document. Once your signature is on there you are swearing it is accurate. That is why you do not want to sign it until your day is done. It can still have mistakes in it but you haven’t signed it stating you have gone over it and claim everything is correct.

      1. malcolm

        The 70-hour cap is still a bit confusing but I think I will just go over this post until I clearly understand. In your view, is 70 hours fair or with time there will arise a need to increase to say, 80 hours? I know a few truck drivers who can easily do 80 without batting an eyelid.

        1. Dennis

          Basically, as long as you stay within your legal driving hours every day you can drive until your total hours for the week reach 70. After that, you will need a 34 hour “restart” to get all of your 70 hours back, or you could wait till some of your used hours are added back to your log, but the second option won’t give you many hours and you won’t make much money.

          Many weeks I could do a lot more than 70 hours. Fair? I don’t know. I guess that depends on the driver. Some weeks I appreciated the 70-hour limit, other weeks I hated it.

          1. malcolm

            True Dennis, it is not always that a driver will want to work more than 70-hours even in the event that it translates into more bucks.

            Does it get to a point where as a truck driver, you just love and appreciate your job? My nephew just got a new job and he is very excited about it. I hope the passion does not die out anytime soon.

          2. Dennis

            In all honesty, I loved driving a truck and I enjoyed most of the shippers and receivers.

            The company I worked for had gotten to the point where they were making my schedule for me and treating me like I was just out of school. Everything was an argument with them. It had gotten inbearable. That’s the main reason I called it quits.

  3. Broom

    I also disagree about e-logs being worse than paper logs. Technology helps us to keep track of things in more detailed ways that we can’t do manually. I’m just worried sometimes it distracts us from driving and accidents may happen, so we still need to be careful.

    1. Dennis

      Some companies have the entire system off while the vehicle is in motion. The only thing you can see is how many hours you have available till you will need to stop. The light will come on to let you know you have a message but in order to read it you will need to stop.

      1. Prince

        While reading the comments, I was wondering why the companies didn’t use phone apps for this kind of log. With the advance of technology, creating a phone app is probably more efficient because companies don’t need to buy the qualcomm.

        1. Dennis

          The qualcomm is tied into the truck computer system and does a lot more than just monitoring hours. It’s also the communication center, has GPS capabilities if the company desires, can be used as an internet browser if the company turns it on, etc.

          I also believe that the FMCSA has regulations on what can and can’t be used for electronic monitoring devices.

    2. djanana

      Technology makes everything much easier to handle. Even in cases where there are problems, I think there is no other easier way than fully being dependent of technology to make work lighter.

      1. Dennis

        Technology is only as good as the program and the programming is done by a human somewhere in the process. Humans make mistakes.

        I have seen many cases where the program spit out wrong data. The GPS system my former company had, for example, was constantly giving me wrong turns, etc. The secret is to be knowledgeable enough to know when the technology is telling you something wrong. If you don’t use your own brain and common sense, trust me, technology can get you into trouble.

  4. Joe

    My wife wanted me to ask you this question. If a couple drives as a team, are they allowed to drive twice as long before having to rest or is it the same as just one driver?

    1. Dennis

      You alternate as drivers. The truck can roll all the time.

      Individual drivers still have to follow the log regulations but while one is driving the other is on their break.

  5. jayden

    Indeed, having a good record is important as it could as well define a truck driver’s career path. I believe it is not hard to maintain a log. Additionally, the 70-hour weekly cap is useful since I knowb there are truck drivers who can easily do more than 70 hours per week.

    1. Dennis

      There were weeks I was capable of driving 100 hours (of course I didn’t), but then there were weeks when driving 40 hours was pushing it. We’re only human and have our good days and bad. Unfortunately, companies don’t see it that way.

      Thanks for the comment.

  6. Caden

    Lots of great information. I have heard of the Qualcomm system before. Where my buddy works they just recently installed this system about a year ago. He likes it much better than the paper version because it really helps to keep things more organized. Do you think that most trucking companies will finally switch over to this type of log keeping in the future?

    1. Dennis

      The FMCSA has already put into effect that electronic logs will be required on all trucks by the end of 2017 but that is currently being fought out in the courts, so we’ll see.

  7. Roope

    Very interesting information about the truck driving. I assume that the regulations that you are talking about are in the U.S. Do you know are the same regulations here in Europe or do they differ a lot?

    I am from Finland and I have heard that the regulations for the truck drivers have become more and more strict after joining to EU.

    1. Dennis

      I have no idea what the regulations are outside of the USA and Canada.

      I’m always willing to hear from people in all corners of the earth about their trucking experiences and the regulations they have to deal with.

      Thanks for the comment!

  8. Richard

    Hello Dennis,

    I too am a truck driver. I no longer work on the road, but I do still have my CDL. However, I worked primarily on city routes, so I did not have to keep my log up to date, except when I worked over 12 hours, which happened often.

    Could you explain split logging to me though? I have never heard of that. What does that involve?

    Drive Safe!

    Richard

    1. Dennis

      This regulation is so confusing I am going to refer you to this site to read it.

      Split log regulation

      They have log diagrams to go with the explanation.

      For a solo driver the need to use this regulation is rare. I think I used it twice when I used paper logs. The e-logs made it easier to do since it would tell you how much time you had to work with. The only time I used it was when I had to get to a midnight appointment but needed some hours to drive after I was done in order to make a 5:00 A.M. pick up appointment 100 miles away.

      It’s a lot more beneficial for teams.

  9. Awesome retail reviews

    Wow , amazing I didn’t know the information you provided about truck drivers. I feel they do need there sleep to not get into crashes. You provide great informations and grab the niches attention. I wish you many success and blessing within your business . Your site is very details, great pictures and knowledgeable

    1. Dennis

      Safety is #1 out there.

      Thanks for the comment.

  10. James Kelly

    An excellent and well researched article. I am not a truck driver but I know of many who earn a living from this very energy sapping and long working hours job over here in Australia. I have great admiration for the work demands on these drivers who require exceptional levels of concentration for driving long distances every day. I am sure that the information you have given which I assume are the regulations for US truck drivers are very similar to those which exist over here.

    1. Dennis

      Yes, the USA is where I drove. I’d be interested in knowing about things Australian drivers have to deal with.

      Thanks for the comment.

  11. Mike

    I think you have created a great site. I am not a truck driver, but I have noticed for years now that many big rigs have signs on them that their parent company is hiring. This made me think that there is a great opportunity here for so many out-of-work folks. Your site is exactly what these folks need to learn more about becoming a trucker. Great job.

    1. Dennis

      Thanks for the comment.

      The turnover rate is extremely high in the industry. Much of it is because people don’t realize what is involved before they get into t and once they find out they decide it isn’t what they want.

  12. Ryan L

    You really explain the situation clearly and precisely. I’m not a driver however after reading this article I can now understand how difficult it must be for you guys, with the overwhelming amount of regulations. It’s better to have them in place as it breeds a safety conscious mindset. Not sure if having all of these regulations in place could put off new truckers or not? I would make me think twice..

    1. Dennis

      Not only does it keep people from becoming drivers, it has chased a lot of veteran drivers from the industry. The irony is, all these regulations are intended to make the roads safer but by chasing off all the highly experienced drivers and having a much higher percentage of inexperienced drivers the roads aren’t any safer.

      Thanks for the comment!

  13. Jeremy

    Nice informative site. I am also a truck driver. Have been for about 15 years. Your exactly rite about companies filling seats instead of filling them with quality. They are coming out with so many regulations now, it´s just not worth it anymore. I drive to LA every week from Ohio with 1 week off every 3rd week. So it is not real bad I dont guess. I would love to be home more with my family. So i am trying out different things to get that done. Your site has everything I could possibly think of putting on a site. Very well done.

    1. Dennis

      All the regulations that have been thrown down over the past five years are part of the reason I gave it up.

      Thanks for the compliment and the comment.

      Keep on truckin and be safe out there!

  14. Lynne

    Thanks for this interesting information. My husband has just changed jobs but until recently he was the HR Manager for a large transport company in Saldanha (South Africa). He spoke to me quite a bit about how there are so many rules and regulations regarding the drivers.. but judging from what I just read on your post I think the laws and regulations here are not nearly as strict as where you are.
    My hubby told me some of the weekly hours their drivers clocked up and it was quite scary to know that they are driving long distance on our roads every day working hours like that.
    I hope South Africa follows with some stricter laws.

    1. Dennis

      I’ve never been to S. Africa but I would guess they don’t have the kind of highways we have here and if not that would wear a driver down faster than here. I wonder what kind of accident rate they have with the drivers where you are.

      I enjoy hearing from other countries about how the trucking industry works in those places.

      Thanks for the comment.

  15. Amberlee

    Wow! I didn’t know ignorant I was until I read your post. A truck driver’s job is very intense. So may rules and regulations in place. However, I am guessing it is this way because it protects both the driver and the other motorist of the road.

    Thank you for sharing as I now have a new found respect for all the truck drivers out there.

    1. Dennis

      There are so many regulations and it’s impossible to teach a new driver all of them in the short time we have them on our truck. Trying to get all the regulations in one place, this site, hopefully will make it easier for new drivers to learn faster before they find themselves getting into trouble.

      Safety is the name of the game for sure.

      Thanks for your comment!

  16. Matt's Mom

    I think this is a great post on truck drivers. I think they are the safest drivers out there. I think the regulations are great…they keep you safe and alert and not drowsy. I have a friend who just started as a truck driver and he grumbles about the breaks…he will learn I suppose that they are good and get you rested and alert and ready to go again. Great post on awareness of what really anybody should follow when on a long road trip.

    1. Dennis

      You’re correct about breaks being a good thing. I always liked to drive so I would get my break in as early as possible, after the first three hours, so I could do the bulk of my driving afterwards. Others prefer the opposite. Admittedly, at times, you get “on a roll” and the idea of stopping doesn’t rank up there on your favorite things to do list. 🙂

      If your friend ever needs help with anything have him get in touch with me through the site and I’ll do what I can. Let him know about our new forum. Hopefully, he’ll be able to get some helpful information there also. I hope he is successful, and above all…safe!

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