Getting behind the wheel of a truck is an exciting way to earn a living. Unfortunately, it can also be dangerous. One issue that many new drivers are concerned about is how many hours they can drive before requiring a break.
While truck driver hour limits may seem overly restrictive to maximizing earnings, they are there to protect the general public and you from any potential accidents. The more awake you are, the better you’ll meet the timelines of your current loads.
This article will discuss the rules surrounding truck driving hours to help you better understand how long you can be on the road without taking a rest break.
Why Do Truck Driver Hour Limits Exist?
The hours a truck driver can drive are regulated for the safety of both the driver and the surrounding public. Would you want to share the road with a fatigued truck driver? No, because they could cause an accident.
The government also wants to ensure that drivers get enough sleep to be alert while driving because they are managing a large vehicle. A rig has many moving parts that require constant attention to operate efficiently.
What Makes Me Qualify for CDL Driving Hours
The drivers that comply with hour limits typically meet certain standards set by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) concerning the HOS (hours of service). Any commercial motor vehicle must follow these rules according to the Department of Transportation’s classification. That includes:
- Commercial vehicles at least 10,0001 pounds in gross weight or a combination of weights.
- Any paid passenger vehicle designed to carry nine or more passengers (including the driver).
- Any unpaid passenger vehicle designed to carry 16 or more passengers (including the driver).
- Pretty much anything with hazardous materials requiring a placard.
So, How Many Hours can Truck Drivers Drive?
The answer to that question is complicated because it depends on various factors. It comes down to how many hours you’ve worked in a certain period. You could sneak a nap in the common places a truck driver sleeps or stop at a rest location for a bit. These regulations tend to follow these service rules:
1 – The 11-Hour Rule
The 11-hour rule means you can drive for 11 hours, then you must take a break.
2 – The 14-Hour Limit
For most truck drivers, this will be the maximum hours you can drive in a day, and you must take a 30-minute break after 8 hours.
3 – The 10-Hour Break
Any combination of 10 consecutive hours inside the sleeper berth and personal time outside driving.
4 – The 60/70-Hour Limit
Anytime you reach 60 hours in a 7-day period or 70 hours in an 8-day period, you have hit your limit and must take a break.
5 – The 34-Hour Restart
Once you’ve hit those 7/8 day limits, you must rest for 34 consecutive hours and start again.
What is the Thirty Minute Break Rule?
- The 30-minute break rule is mandatory unless you qualify for an exemption to it. For example, all short-haul drivers who operate within a 150 air mile radius of their starting location are exempt, as well as all non-CDL drivers who operate within a 150 air mile radius of their starting location.
- This 30-minute break must be consecutive. For example, you can’t take 3 shorter breaks of 10 minutes at different times in a day and count them as your 30-minute break.
- The 30-minute break does not extend the 14-hour driving window. These 30 minutes are deducted from your available 14-hour window.
- If you take your 30-minute break early, you may need to take more than one of these breaks during the day. (it is bad when you have to take more than one of these a day, it shows poor planning on the driver
What About Truck Drivers with Passengers?
The rules for how many hours can truck drivers drive are pretty much the same. The only difference is that passenger-carrying vehicles can run for 15 hours with a single driver (10 hours driving/5 hours on duty).
This is why team drivers are especially useful for long-haul passenger vehicles to maximize operations and earn a bit more. In most cases, having a team is a great way to be a successful truck driver.
What About Logs?
Logbooks are a mandatory part of trucking for anyone who wants to stay on the road. They are your record of how many hours can a truck driver drive a day. Your logbook is where you’ll record your hours and miles, as well as what you’re hauling and where.
You can choose from two types: an electronic one that’s stored online in a secure database or a paper version that’s kept in your cab and updated manually. Either way, all entries must be precise, so they’re accurate when it comes time to file taxes or take a driving break. Most regulatory bodies prefer a manual logbook to see the truck driver driving hours you’ve recorded.
The good news is that plenty of apps are designed specifically with truckers in mind. These tend to be easy to use and sync with other devices using Bluetooth. Some even include an alarm function, so you don’t accidentally forget about essential deadlines such as mandatory rest breaks or annual inspections.
The significant duty statuses you’ll be recording include:
- Off Duty – not performing any duties of your job.
- Sleeper Berth – time spent resting in the truck sleeper area.
- Driving – when you are at the controls.
On Duty, Not Driving (ODND) – usually a team driver, loading/unloading, training, fueling, etc
Are there Exceptions to CDL Driving Limits?
Yes, there are some special exemptions to the hours of driving you can drive in a day. You have to be a bit careful because this can be a grey area, but some examples include:
- Team Drivers
- Personal Conveyance
- Yard Moves
- Short-Haul Exemption
- Adverse Driving Conditions
- Direct Emergency Assistance
That emergency exemption is critical to clarify due to the recent global pandemic. The supply chain must be maintained in many state and federal situations to ensure the general public comes out okay. This could be a natural disaster, medical emergency, or anything declared by the governor/federal authority.
What Happens if I Break these Driving Limits?
This is where the rubber hits the road. A single violation of your driving limits could lead to severe profit loss. Anytime you risk violating these rules, you are far better off taking a break than dealing with the repercussions. Most often, this means:
- Being sent to roadside shutdown until a break has been met.
- Local fines from state law enforcement.
- Federal fines ranging from $1,000-$11,000.
- Reduction in your driving safety record/rating.
- Federal criminal penalties, especially in the case of an accident.
Stick to a Solid Safety Record
You need to rest so that you’re alert behind the wheel. Otherwise, accidents can happen—even small ones could lead to severe injuries or death down the line. The last thing anyone wants is for their loved ones’ lives to be changed because someone chose not to follow federal regulations explicitly designed with them in mind.
At DRC, we spend a lot of time training our drivers to maintain proper logs and follow local, state, and federal regulations. So it just makes operational sense to stay within these rules. Not only for your personal safety but to ensure you are maximizing profit potential whenever possible. If you would like to learn more about a lucrative career as a truck driver, set up a meeting with our professional team. We can help you transition into the freedom of the open road, earning a living without being stuck behind a desk all day long. Reach out today, and let’s discuss your future.