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Confused over the Hours-of-Service rules

Photo by jonny goldstein via Flickr

Unless you’ve just beamed in from another planet (or you’re a non-trucker), you’re probably aware of the new Hours-of-Service rules that are looming. But do you understand them fully? From some of the feedback I’ve been getting on Twitter and the blog, I’d say there’s still some confusion out there. The Bible flat-out says that all Christians will be persecuted. Well, I’m pretty sure some Bible-thumper at my company has been Skyping with God on my behalf. You see, my company recently decided that I would be one of the lucky ones who got put on the new Hours-of-Service rules a few weeks early. You know, just to try it out. *sigh* Well, I guess this kind of persecution is better than being around when Nero was kabob-ing Christians to light his garden parties. So thanks for that, God.

But before we get into it, let me issue a warning to my non-trucking peeps. This post will likely only be understood by truckers, so feel free to beam yourself back up to your planet if you don’t mind missing out on my exquisite writing style and tasteful wit. And to the rest of you, like I said, the length of this couldn’t be avoided. When it comes to this technical stuff, if you don’t explain everything in full, you actually raise more questions than you answer.

So my first question was, “Is this even legal?” I mean, how could my employer make me adhere to rules that hadn’t even gone into effect yet? So of course, I called my safety department. I wound up talking to my least favorite safety person. For starters, she’s in charge of e-log training and new implementations such as this most recent one. So there’s strike one against her. Strike two, three, and four came at different times when I called in to question how the e-logs were set up. Each time, the conversation started fine, but ended badly after she basically said, “Well, this is how things are. If you don’t like them, I guess that’s too bad.” You can imagine how well this went over with me. It got to the point where the safety director told us not to speak anymore. If I called in and got her, I was to give her my name and she was to immediately transfer me to someone else. That worked fine up until this latest thing, because like I said, she’s the one who was implementing this new program.

Thankfully, she didn’t get snotty with me this time, even though I did question the legality of making me follow rules that weren’t even in effect yet. Well come to find out, all these new Hours-of-Service rules have actually been in effect since the beginning of the year. They just aren’t going to be enforced until July 1. She said there are quite a few small trucking companies that have been following the new rules since the beginning of the year. So there goes that beef with her. So for now, let’s get on with understanding these new rules. We’ll come back to Hitler’s granddaughter at the end where she’ll answer a few more questions I had.

First, what Hours-of-Service rules are not changing?

The 11-hour rule – You’re still allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours before you’re required to take a 10-hour break. Be thankful for this one. The proposed rule was to take us back down to 10 hours of driving like it used to be. Whew! Dodged that roadkill!

The 14-hour rule – You still have a 14-hour window to work after the start of your day. Thank God they didn’t get the hard 14 passed that would’ve kept us from extending the work day with an 8-hour sleeper berth period. I don’t use this extension much, but it’s come in handy a few times. Any rule that takes away flexibility is a bad thing for a trucker.

The 70-hour rule – You can still work up to 70 hours in an 8 day period. I wish they’d raise this limit, but quite frankly, I’d have better luck getting my nephews to quit “nutting” each other. Yes, that’s precisely what you think it is.

10-hour breaks – You still need to get a minimum 10 hours of off-duty and/or sleeper berth time to reset your 11 and 14-hour rule. This can be all off-duty, all sleeper berth, or a combination of the two.

Split breaks – Although I hate having to do split breaks, it’s sometimes necessary to deliver your load on time. In order to split, you have to have a minimum of 8 hours in the sleeper berth. The other 2 hours can be all sleeper berth, all off-duty, or a combination of the two.

Over all, I’m happy that none of these rules changed. These five rules are the ones we deal with every day and are thereby, the most important. While I’m not entirely pleased with the new rules changes, at least the biggest changes aren’t something that will affect us every day. Well, one will, but it’s not too bad.

So what are the new changes/additions to the Hours-of-Service rules?

There are three new rules changes that will start being enforced on July 1, 2013. Let’s start with the easiest of the three.

The 30-minute rest break – This new rule states that a driver may only drive when less than 8 hours has passed since the end of your last off-duty and/or sleeper period of at least 30 minutes. My company even says that you cannot use personal conveyance during this 30-minute break. After all, the whole idea is for you to be taking a break from behind the wheel. As many of you know, my company has a reputation for being super-strict on this kind of stuff, so I’d be sure to ask your company about it. Luckily, my e-log unit is set up to warn me when my 30-minute break is due. It will warn you 1 hour before and then again 30 minutes before. Once the legal break is logged, it’ll start the count over. You can also find this countdown in the Driver Log section of the e-logs. Check out the picture below to see how this looks on my system.

A picture of how the PeopleNet e-log unit keeps track of the 30-minute rest break.

The PeopleNet e-log system keeps track of when your next 30-minute break is due. It issues a warning 1 hour and 30 minutes before.

So anyway… I have to admit that this rule is a bit more complicated than I originally thought. I thought, “8 hours of driving, take a 30-minute break, then finish your day.” Easy squeezy, right? Not so fast, Hot Rod. First, the 8-hour thing includes any on-duty, off-duty, or sleeper berth time under 30 minutes. So if you fueled for 15 minutes, that on-duty time counts towards the 8 hours. But what if you pull into a rest area and show 15 minutes in the sleeper berth while you make your cup of ramen? Yep. That counts towards the 8 hours too. But if you extend that for 15 more minutes, it counts as the 30-minute rest break. That’s great, right? Well, maybe. That all depends on when you took the break.

Did you know that if you aren’t careful as to when you take your 30-minute rest break, you may actually have to take two 30-minute breaks in one 14-hour day? This will be most likely to happen if you take your break before the 6th hour. Let’s walk through an example. Say you start your day at 10 AM and you take a 30-minute lunch break 6 hours later at 2 PM. This break qualifies as your 30-minute rest break. But it also restarts the 8-hour clock. So you go back to driving at 2:30 PM. At 10:30 PM (eight hours later and still within your 14-hour day), you need to take another rest break. So if you want to avoid wasting an extra 30 minutes per day, try to remember not to break the first 6 hours of your day!

1 AM to 5 AM requirements on 70-hour resets – This is exactly what it sounds like. In order to restart your 70-hour work week, your 34-hour break has to include two periods of 1 AM to 5 AM (home terminal time). For full details on how this rule has been affecting me, check out my blog post called, TD91: Bungling the 34-Hour Rule. And for the record, I’m aware that I got the time wrong in the article. I’ve gone back and fixed it, so don’t be buggin’ me. Anywho, the worst part about this specific time-of-day requirement is that we drivers usually can’t control when we start these breaks nor when we have to come off them. For instance, one of my breaks that I talk about in Bungling the 34-Hour Rule was 44 hours and it still didn’t count as a legal restart. I was so stunned I had to triple-check it to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. But it’s actually worse than that. If you start your break at 2 AM (just one hour after the 1 AM requirement), your break will have to be 51 hours to count. Yea. I see a lot of dispatchers working with us that. Not. But it gets even worse. Yes, another level of worse.

Only 1 restart per week (168 hours)- Self-explanatory, right? When I first heard this, I thought, “Well who cares? No one is going to be getting even one 34-hour restart; let alone two in one week.” I even said as much in TD82: Are All These Changes Good for the Trucking Industry? Once again, I was as wrong as a loogie milkshake. This new rule puts even more time restrictions on the already nearly-impossible new 34-hour rule. And I think it’s going to affect the regional drivers who are home every weekend even more than us peons who are stuck out here for weeks on end. How so?

Because the one restart per week is based on when you started your last 34-hour break. This is most easily explained in an example. Say you get home at 7 AM on Saturday morning and you get a legal 34-hour break in. Now say the following weekend you get home at 11 PM on Friday. Under the new rule, you can’t start counting your 34 hours until 168 hours after the start of your previous 34-hour break. So in this example, that would be last week at 7 AM on Saturday morning. So even though you got home the previous night at 11 PM, you can’t start counting until 7 AM the following morning. Screwy, huh? That’s 8 hours that can’t go towards a restart. And that 8 hours would’ve even met the 1 AM to 5 AM time restraints. Grrrrr.

Now if that isn’t already weirder than Lady Gaga’s wardrobe, there’s another aspect of this that seems even more bizarre. Now let me state right out front that I may be wrong about this. I spoke with my safety person about this, so if I get it wrong, blame her. And then write in and and tell me how this really works. Okay. Here we go.

So back to your situation. We’ve established that this week’s restart doesn’t start counting until 7 AM on Saturday. So if you get home next weekend at 2 AM on Saturday, you still have to wait 5 hours until you can start counting towards your 34 hours. But what if you get home after 7 AM on Saturday? Let’s say you have to stay out to do one more load and you don’t get home until 10 PM on Sunday night. Great! You can start your 34 hours immediately because you’re well past the 168-hour mark.

But what about next weekend when you get home on Friday night again? Your last restart started at 10 PM on Sunday night, so now your 34 hours isn’t up until some time on Tuesday morning. So do you see what’s happening here? It seems to me that if you ever want to get another 34-hour break, you’re going to have to get home on Sunday night again. So much for the weekend. And what if dispatch is shooting to have you home Sunday night but you’re delayed until Monday morning?

I’m really hoping someone will tell me how wrong I am here. But the way I see it is that you can never move the 34-hour start time backward; it can only be moved forward. I don’t see how that can possibly be a good thing for you drivers who are supposed to get home on the weekends. Does that mean you’ll have to stay out for two weeks in order to set yourself up for weekend home time again? Some of you regional drivers write in and tell me how you think this will work in your situation. I’d love nothing more than for you to tell me I’m a moron.

A picture of how the PeopleNet e-log unit keeps track of the 34-hour break.

This shot was taken the morning of June 14. The 34-hour break start time shows a later time because my last 34-hour break started at 15:56 on June 7 (168 hours prior).

Again, thankfully those of us on e-logs don’t have to figure a lot of this stuff out. As you can see from the photos, the e-log system keeps track of all this for you. In the first photo, you can see it lists the earliest time I can start my 34-hour break and the time it will end. In this example, I took this snapshot the morning of the June 14. But notice the start time is listed as 15:56. That’s because the last 34-hour break I started was at 15:56 on June 7 (that’s 168 hours prior). Notice also that the end time is for the 16th at 0500. That’s because of the new 1 AM to 5 AM time constraints. So in this case, if I wanted to start my 34-hour break, I’d have to be down for just over 37 hours.

A picture of how the PeopleNet e-log unit keeps track of the 34-hour break.

This was taken at 22:30. Notice how the 34-hour break start time is the present time. Also the end time has changed from the previous picture.

This next shot was taken at 22:30, which just so happens to be the exact time the 34-hour start time shows. That’s because I’m now past the 168-hour window. This start time now moves with me as time passes. Notice the end time now shows 08:30. So if I were to start my 34-hour break right then, I’d only have to be down for 34-hours to get a legal restart. Sweet!

Time to wrap this puppy up. When I had Fräulein Hitler on the phone, I asked how she thought these new rules would affect drivers. She said there was actually some poor sods at our company who’ve been using the new rules since April. And I thought I was on the crap list! She said about half of the 34-hour attempts were registering as legal 70-hour resets. What she didn’t say is how many of those 34-hour restarts took longer than 34 hours. According to my unscientific tests, the number of acceptable restarts is more like 1/3, and remember, I wasn’t even taking into account the 168-hour limitations when I did my study.

Well, at least there is one ray of hope in all this. History has taught us that Nazis always think they’re right, but it’s been proven that they’re often wrong; big time. So maybe my safety lady and her fellow FMCSA Nazis will accept defeat and back the heck off. Then again, Hitler didn’t really give up did he? He more or less self-destructed. Great. That sounds like a lot of fun for our immediate future.

*Are you dreading the new HOS rules or do you think they won’t affect you much? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Yes, I realize you’ll have to do a little math to complete the task, but that’s what calculators are for, right? ;-)*

About the Author
I'm a 22-year truck driver with an interest in tech stuff. I do the Trucker Dump podcast and blog, which is all about life as a trucker. I have also written two trucking books, "Trucking Life" and "How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job."
16 comments on “TD94: Understanding The New Hours-Of-Service (HOS) Rules
  1. Raysunshine77 says:

    I really hope I did that math right. You didn’t mention I’d have to do algebra to comment. And you thought I didn’t comment before.
    Anywho! Onto the new HOS suck comment. I like the 30 minute break because it means hubby has to stop and actually eat dinner sitting still. For those of you that think driving and eating is as bad as texting and driving, I hope you covered your eyes. The con is that it sometimes requires him to utilize the 8/2 when we don’t normally use it.
    The 1-5 on the restart doesn’t bother me in the slightest. He’s officially a solar powered trucker these days (and he’s less cranky for it).
    But the 168 hours between restarts is killing us. We get back sometime between Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening. And he uses all his 70, so he almost has to do one. I just hate being locked in to when. They could have just said every seven days you can only do one. Why make it so complicated even DOT doesn’t understand it.
    I feel your pain about starting the rules earlier than enforcement. But we did it voluntarily so there would be no surprises when July gets here. No sense in needless logbook violations.

    1. Todd McCann says:

      Dang Jean! You guys must be gluttons for punishment by voluntarily doing the new laws early. I went kicking and screaming!

      Can you provide an example of how the 30-minute break can cause the need for an 8/2 split? I don’t do them enough to be able to think of a scenario.

      As for the 168-hour thing, I guess they have to be specific about what constitues a week. So is my assessment correct? If you keep getting home later each weekend, does that mean you can only move the 34-hour break forward, not backward? Does that mean you’re going to have to stay out two weeks to get back to taking legal 34-hour break weekends off again? I’m interested to see how this works for you guys. Sounds like you and Bill are going to be excellent guinea pigs for me. LOL

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with this. Sorry you had to do some math. I know it must have been painful for you.

  2. Lyle Bennett says:

    I started coming off the road a year ago. I’m running where I can be home at night and weekends. I did some math too, I can only work 60 hours and with my 2 days off a week, I can restart every 2 weeks. If I’m figuring right. If I keep it at 60 in 5 days I will not run out of hours, even without a restart. Let me know if I’ve got it right. I thought it would be simple running a 300 mile radius, and it has been until now. There goes simple. I think I can make it work if I got it right.
    I’m one of the old ones, I don’t have that much driving
    time left in me, maybe 4 or 5 years.
    I guess I’ll tell you this too, I’m in Texas and I can drive 12 hours not go over 15 hours and can take off for 8 hours before driving again. I understand I still have to do the 30 minutes in the first 8 hours. If you can tell me anything else please let me know.
    You have help me a lot already, thanks.

    1. Todd McCann says:

      Well Lyle, I’m glad I’ve been able to help you some. Now help me to understand something. What’s this about you driving for 12-15 hours and taking an 8-hour break? Is this a Texas thing I don’t know about or did I simply misunderstand what you were trying to say? Cuz the last time I checked, the limit was 11 hours of driving and a 10-hour break.

      1. Lyle says:

        The Texas rules are different from the feds. We still are subject to logs and dot checks.
        There are 6 states that have their on rules. We can work a total of 15 hours and drive a total of 12 hours and take an 8 hour break, as long as we do not leave Texas. If we leave then we have to run under the new HOS.
        Texas intrastate rules are for Texas only. Any other way as the interstate are the new rules.

        1. Todd McCann says:

          Holy smokes, Lyle! 16 years as a trucker and I had no idea that some states are allowed to have different HOS rules. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me since I did know that states can make exceptions for driver qualifications, such as age or disabilities. Still, it’s good to know. Thanks for writing back in and setting me straight. You da man!

  3. chuck says:

    Ok here’s a doozie for you. Im on a schedule exactly like Lyle’s. Mon-Fri 6pm to 6am. I get off on Saturday morning and then im back at work Monday night. So the new law doesnt affect me much since my restart falls on my Saturdays and Sundays off…..until….my boss asked me to work one Saturday(6 days). Once I got off work Sunday morning that totally shifted my regular schedule from Mon-Fri to Tues-Sat. Screwed. Last week after taking my 34 hr restart(Sun&Mon) I came in and worked Tues-Fri…off Sat. and Sun. Since the Sat. and Sun. off didnt count as a restart(7 day rule)would that mean I would have to drag out the rest of my 70 hours until Sat morning to get back on my Mon-Fri. schedule or will my e-log(We have PeopleNet too) automatically restart me this week since I will be over my 168?

    1. Todd McCann says:

      Hey Chuck. I really appreciate you writing in with this question. You are the first to verify the point I was trying to make in the article. Yep. Your boss totally screwed you when he asked you to work that extra Saturday. As you noticed (and as I feared), that shifted your work schedule back a day.

      As for your question, let me make sure I’m undestanding it correctly. What I think you’re asking when you say you’ll have to “drag out your 70 hours” is that you need to make sure you don’t accidentally get a 34-hour restart. If that’s what you’re saying, you’re exactly right. Once you get home this Saturday, your e-log will automatically restart your 70 hours because you’ve been out well over 168 hours.

      So unfortunately, it’s just as I thought it would be. Every time you get home later on the weekend than you normally do, you have two choices:

      1. Keep getting home later in the week to get your 34-hour restart until you’re back to getting home Saturday again. Or…
      2. Stay out on the road over the next weekend (over 168 hours from prior restart) to get back on your regular schedule.

      So to sum up, it’s yes to both. Yes, you’ll have to drag out your 70 hours until Saturday morning to get back on your Mon.-Fri. schedule; and… yes, when you do your 34-hour break again, the e-log unit will automatically restart you because you’re past the 168-hour mark.

      Just remember one thing. For Pete’s sake, don’t accidentally get a legal 34-hour break in, because as long as it’s a legal break, you’re e-log will log it as such and start your 168-hour countdown again!

      Hope that answers your question, Chuck. I’ve got a pretty good grasp on how all this works, so if I misunderstood what you were asking, don’t hesitate to write back and tell me I’m an idiot. I’ll give it another go. 🙂

  4. Brent says:

    The new HOS rules do not apply to Texas intrastate drivers unless you cross state lines. If so, you must follow fed rules until end of tour. You better have a MC number along with your USDOT number if you plan to cross state lines.

    1. Todd McCann says:

      Thanks for piping in on this, Brent. I have to admit that I’ve never really understood why a trucking company needs both a USDOT number AND an MC number. Both say that you need to have their number if you want to travel across state lines. So if they both serve the same purpose, why do carriers need to have both? See now why I never refer to myself as a “trucking expert?” LOL

      Quite honestly, it still amazes me that even after 16 years of trucking, I’m just now grocking the fact that states can have their own set of HOS rules. It just goes to show that you never stop learning.

      I’m curious; have you ever had a DOT officer from another state question your log book when they look at your last 7 days in Texas? I’d be interested to know if they understood what they were looking at.

      1. Steve says:

        I just stumbled across this discussion, and can comment about the Texas hours of service rules. They only apply to Texas inTRAstate drivers. My understanding is that if you cross into inTERstate drive, the DOT can only apply interstate rules back to the previous reset, or the last 7 days. With the new HOS and the restrictive 34 hour reset, this may be even more tangled.

        I drive in the the oilfield in Texas, and my employer does not have interstate authorities, so we can never drive outside of Texas. As the previous poster said, our rules allow for 15 hours on duty time, 12 hours of drive time, and an 8 hour rest break, along with a 24 hour reset (instead of 34 hours). I’m going to have to look into the 30 minute break rule, I don’t know if that will apply to us.

        1. Todd McCann says:

          Thanks for your input there, Steve. Man, I’d kill for those rules… especially the 24 hour reset. That would ROCK!

          I just had a thought. If each state can make their own HOS rules, then all we have to do to get around the national HOS rules is get every state to follow Texas’ example. Surely we can get California on board, right? *crickets*

          Let me know about the 30-minute break rule if you ever find out. Obviously, I don’t need to know, but I am curious.

          1. Steve says:

            These rules are only for InTRAstate driving. You have to remember that Texas is about 600 miles east to west, from Texarkana to El Paso, and about 600 miles north to south, from Brownsville to Amarillo. We can’t drive a truck across the state line, although it’s only about 30 miles north of my home in Monahans! And I forgot to mention that the 24 reset is an oilfield exception. I think it applies nationally.

            I reviewed the Texas Motor Carrier Guide, and the 30 minute break is only mentioned in the interstate rules. http://www.dps.texas.gov/internetforms/Forms/MCS-9.pdf

            We do work long days, but I’m glad I get home every night, unless we have a night job.

            1. Todd McCann says:

              Oh, to be home every night. I envy you, my friend. Thanks for the follow-up on the stupid 30-minute break rule.

          2. Darbie says:

            California does have their own rules and its 16 hours on duty. Also, Texas does not have to take the 30 minute break as long as you don’t cross state lines.

  5. Stevie says:

    Hi Todd, well, I guess that makes me an even bigger idiot, ha, ha. I totally missed the awards thing. Had to go back and listen to that part of the Podcast again. Grammy’s = music, Emmy’s = TV for the most part, Oscars = Movies & big screen, Tony’s = Theater & Broadway.
    Currently, I am not a driver but my boyfriend is, he is an owner operator who, for now anyway, is still using paper logs.
    “People watching” is definitely a “Carny,” occupational hazzard, ha, ha, ha… gotta do something to pass the time on a slow day.
    Anyway, safe travels my friend.

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