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How Many Hours Can a Truck Driver Drive?

Regarding interstate commerce, DOT regulations state that truck drivers are only permitted to stay on the road for 14 hours per day after they first start their shift.

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ABCO Transportation
September 9, 2020
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Long-haul trucking is a good job with many benefits, but there is a limit to how many hours can a truck driver drive. According to motor carrier safety administration or certain driving conditions, federal regulations state that all truck drivers need a rest break. After a certain number of hours, truck drivers should take an adequate break before they get back on the open road. How many hours a truck driver can drive depends on various bodies such as the DOT and state-specific driving limits.

Regarding interstate commerce, DOT regulations state that truck drivers are only permitted to stay on the road for 14 hours per day after they first start their shift. Any driver of a commercial motor vehicle needs to follow hours of service regulations. This is for health and safety reasons mostly as the number of hours driving can affect truck drivers’ energy levels and ability to drive safely. 

How Many Hours Can a Truck Driver Drive Per Week?

how-many-hours-can-a-truck-driver-drive-per-week

Truck drivers may drive no more than 60 hours over 7 consecutive days of work. This can be increased to 70 hours over 8 days. Truck drivers need to maintain a driver’s log to record the number of hours. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) which is an agency of the United States Department of Transport (DOT) regulates how many hours can a truck driver drive per week. These driving limits are in place for both the safety of drivers and anyone else on the road.

Federal regulations set an hour limit in order to ensure truck drivers get a rest break and are able to drive safely afterward. Truck drivers need to follow the state hours of service regulations in each state.. The rules can be a little confusing and are easier to understand by category.

There are hours of service regulations for both property-carrying truck drivers and passenger-carrying drivers. Passenger-carrying drivers can be on the road for fewer hours per day with less rest. Drivers who deliver materials across different states need to comply with federal regulations. There are several regulations regarding how many hours a truck driver can drive in a week. 

Once a truck driver has recorded 34 consecutive hours off duty, what’s known as a reset can occur. The working week technically starts after this legal reset. It doesn’t matter what time the reset starts. For example, if your reset occurs at midnight on a Monday, then your working week finishes at midnight the next Monday. 

As far as daily shifts go, each duty period can begin after a 10 hour rest break. Truck drivers can then be on duty for up to 14 hours after their 10-hour break, but they are only allowed to drive for 11 hours. All truck drivers must take a 30 minute break after completing a maximum of 8 hours of work. It is not permitted to extend the 14 hours with off-duty time for things like breaks, meal times, and fuel stops.   

Certain truck drivers can choose to follow the 70 hours of 8 days rule. These hours of service regulations come directly from the FMCSA. If a driver works 14 hours a day for 5 days in a row this means you will have been on the road for 70 hours. It is not permitted to drive again until you drop below 70 hours in 8 consecutive days. It can also depend on the company. If the company allows truck drivers the 34-hour reset, then after these 34 hours off duty you’ll automatically be allowed more driving time. You can then restart your 8 day period and complete up to 70 hours of work.  

How Many Miles Can a CDL Driver Drive Per Day?

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Driving limits for truck drivers also restrict the number of miles per day. How many miles a CDL driver can drive per day depends on the laws of each individual state. In general, each state has slightly different laws about hours of service regulations and how many miles truck drivers can drive, but there are some standard guidelines

Truck drivers don’t have set working hours, so they can choose to drive at different times according to convenience, traffic, or road conditions. There is, however, the exception of a start time after days off when returning to work to start a dispatch journey. The total number of miles a CDL driver can drive per day depends on a number of factors.

There are state driving limits that affect the speed of trucks. There are restrictions on hours of service regulations depending on the state. The majority of state laws in the USA restrict truck drivers to 11 hours over a 21-hour period. This must then be followed by a 10-hour rest break to sleep before they can get back on the road. Truck drivers also need to comply with pre-trip regulations within these 11 hours on the road, which can reduce driving time to just 10 hours and 15 minutes. 

Pre-trip regulations according to the DOT in most states require truck drivers to take between 15 and 30 minute pre-trip breaks during start off. The purpose of these breaks is to thoroughly inspect the vehicle before setting off on their journey. Truck drivers are also supposed to take a 30 minute rest break midway through their shift. This means a total of breaks of 45 minutes to an hour. These are general safety requirements which might result in reducing the number of miles a CDL driver can drive in a day. 

There are also state driving limitations on speed. Most states have the speed limit for trucks set as 60 mph. In certain states, this is even higher, at 65 mph. The truck company itself can also regulate the speed of their trucks. The speed limitations, therefore, depend on the state laws they’re driving in and whether your truck has a speed governor. The faster you can drive, the more miles truck drivers are able to do in a day. 

If a CDL driver can drive 60 mph, then they should be able to cover around 780 miles a day. With mandatory breaks and checks, drivers can do 13 hours on the road in a day in theory. It can be difficult for a driver to always fit in 13 hours of driving, however, as roads can be unpredictable and certain routes will have a lower speed limit.  

There are also many challenges on the road that can affect the number of miles truck drivers can cover in a day. These include cargo-related work and various maintenance tasks. These can be very time consuming and mean that the driver won’t be able to cover the same amount of distance.

The weather can also affect the speed that truck drivers can drive. Driving in wet weather particularly can mean speed is affected due to reduced visibility and more danger of slipping on the roads. Trucks could even break down, which will cause further delays. Other vehicles and accidents on the road can also affect the speed of trucks and the distance covered.

The number of miles a truck driver can cover in a day can also be affected by general geography. The amount of traffic on the road greatly depends on the location. Truck drivers often choose to drive at night for quieter roads, but for longer distances especially, it’s difficult to avoid traffic completely. 

If a road is under construction, or damaged or bumpy this can also affect the speed at which trucks can travel. There are also several factors that affect speed on a daily basis such as fueling,  waiting at a shipper, inspecting the vehicle, and road issues. 

Truck drivers also need ergonomic seats in order to stay comfortable and more alert. The design of the driving seat can even affect how far truck drivers are able to travel. Whether the driver is familiar with the route or not can also have an effect on the distance they’re able to cover in a day. They’ll have a better idea of what to expect and know how to avoid any common problems on that particular route.

How Many Hours Can a Local Truck Driver Work?

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There are two main hour limits for local property-carrying truck drivers, these are the 14-hour limit and the 60/70 hour limit. These control the number of hours a local truck driver can work, but also indicate how many of their on-duty hours can actually be spent driving. 

The 14-hour limit refers to the truck driver’s daily on-duty limit. This rule states that truck drivers can be on duty for 14 hours a day, but can only drive for 11 of these hours. Drivers are permitted to spend the remaining hours on maintenance, inspections, or other tasks. Before starting this 14-hour shift, truck drivers must have had 10 consecutive hours off to rest. Truck drivers also aren’t supposed to drive for 11 hours in a row. They can only drive for a maximum of 8 hours consecutively and then they are required to take a 30 minute break. 

The 60/70 hour limit refers to how much local truck drivers can drive in a week. During a period of seven consecutive days truck drivers have a limit of 60 hours to be on duty. This can be increased to 70 hours over eight consecutive days instead. This rule is more of a rolling hour limit. For example, if a local truck driver starts their working week on Tuesday, their 7 or 8 day period would end on the following Tuesday or Wednesday, not at the weekend.

According to hours of service regulations, trucking companies that don’t operate trucks every day are required to follow the 60 hour limit over 7 days. If truck drivers operate every day then they’re able to choose either rule. Whether truck drivers opt for 60 or 70 hours over 7 or 8 days they still need to comply with the 14 hours per day rule. 

These rules are more or less the same for truck drivers of passenger-carrying vehicles. There are some small differences in the number of hours they can work. The daily on-duty limit is 15 hours with a driving limit of 10 hours, as long as they’ve had 8 consecutive hours off beforehand. After 8 hours of driving, they’re also required to take a 30 minute rest break. 

If drivers don’t want to work over 7 or 8 consecutive days they can reset their driving limit, as previously mentioned, with the 34-hour restart. The FMCSA created this rule in order to give truck drivers the opportunity to take a 34-hour reset where needed, for example in their sleeper birth. 

There are two main exceptions to how many hours can a truck driver drive. These include adverse driving conditions. Adverse driving conditions are defined by the FMCSA as snow, sleet, fog, or other bad weather that will have an effect on the conditions of the road. The rule is, however, that these adverse conditions need to have changed during the driver’s shift. For example, if a driver starts his shift in snow, this does not count as adverse driving conditions. 

If a local truck driver is dispatched but the weather changes and the roads become more dangerous, they are allowed to exceed their normal driving limits in order to reach a safe place to stop. Truck drivers are still only permitted to drive for 2 extra hours, and then are required to stop as soon as possible to take a rest break. 

There is also another way to increase driving time and this is with the 16-hour exception. The rule generally affects local truck drivers on short-haul journeys. Short-haul truck drivers are those who only travel within a 150 mile radius from their home terminal. If these drivers start and finish their shift in the same terminal they can extend one of their wokring days to 16 hours. 

Any local truck drivers who choose to take advantage of the 16-hour exception are still required to follow the 14 hour daily rule with a maximum of 11 hours of driving, or ten hours for passenger carriers. Drivers are not restricted however if they need to perform other tasks during their working day such as yard moves, loads, inspections, and general maintenance.

If truck drivers go over their hour limit there are certain penalties. It’s require to comply with driving limits or otherwise drivers can be put on roadside shutdown. This means them waiting where they are until they have sufficient off-duty time to start driving again. Truck drivers can also be subject to fines from local and state law enforcement. 

FMCSA penalties can range from $1,000-$11,000. If a driver repeatedly violates the driving limits then their safety record could also be affected. If truck drivers are found to be willfully allowing violations regularly then federal criminal penalties could be applied.    

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How Many Hours Can Team Drivers Drive?

how-many-hours-can-team-drivers-drive

Federal hours of service regulations are the same for team drivers as solo drivers. The hour limit is the same and a rest break is still required as often as with solo truck drivers. If you’re a team driver and you go directly from consecutive hours off duty to the sleeper berth at the beginning of the duty period, you can exclude the sleeper berth from the 14 hour limit. This means you can combine sleeper berth with off-duty time to a minimum of 10 hours. 

Team driving means traveling with a partner in the passenger seat. This has many advantages but there are still restrictions to ensure both drivers spend enough time off the road and get a sufficient rest break. A team driver, for example, can only count 2 hours in the passenger seat as off-duty. They are then required to spend the remaining 8 hours of their 10 hours off in the sleeper berth. The FMCSA rules for rest and driving limits are otherwise the same. 

Team driving benefits truck drivers and trucker companies because two drivers can split up driving time between night and days. This means more miles can be covered, and longer hours on the road. Longer hours also mean fewer rest breaks which often result in a quicker turnaround as well. This is one of the reasons why team drivers are in such high demand.

Federal motor carrier safety is still important, however, as with team driving each driver is responsible for another life in the car. The number of hours driving still need to be strictly regulated to ensure driver safety. Adverse driving conditions could still have the same effect and how many hours can a truck driver still depends on the same hours of service regulations.      

What are the DOT Hours of Service?

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The official DOT hours of service regulations are as follows. For property-carrying drivers:

  • An 11-hour driving limit after 10 consecutive hours off duty. 
  • 14-hour limit meaning truck drivers may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty. These 14 hours must occur only after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14 hour period. 
  • With regard to rest breaks, truck drivers may only drive if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of their last off-duty or sleeper berth period. Rest breaks need to every 8 hours and at least 30 mintues. Short-haul drivers can however use the exception in 395.1(e).[ CFR 397.5. This states that mandatory “in attendance” time may be included in the break if no other duties are performed. 
  • The 60/70 hour limit states that truck drivers may not drive after 60 hours on duty over 7 consecutive days, and not over 70 hours over 8 consecutive days. Truck drivers may restart a working week of 7 or 8 days after taking a period of 34 or more consecutive hours off duty. 
  • Sleeper berth provision drivers using the sleeper berth provision are required to take a break of at least 8 hours in the sleeper berth along with a further 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth or off duty, or a comination of the two.

The hours of service regulations for passenger-carrying vehicles are slightly different. Here is an overview of the driving limits and federal regulations:

  • Passenger-carrying drivers are only permitted to drive for a maximum of 10 hours. This working period also needs to occur after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
  • A 15 hour limit restricts passenger-carrying drivers from driving after having been on duty for 15 hours, following 8 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time is not included in the 15 hour period.
  • Passenger-carrying drivers are not permitted to drive after 60 hours in 7 consecutive days and 70 hours in 8 consecutive days. 
  • With regards to sleeper berth provision, drivers using a sleeper berth must take at least 8 hours in the sleeper berth and may split the sleeper berth time into two periods provided neither is less than 2 hours. 

Most truck drivers must follow the hours of service (HOS) rules if their vehicle counts as a commerical vehicle and is used as part of interstate business and commerce. A commercial vehicle must adhere to these guidelines if it fits any of these descriptions:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver, but not for compensation
  • Is designed to transport 9 or more passengers for compensation including the driver 
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a large quantity requiring placards

These are updated regulations based on the HOS final rule published on June 1, 2020. All truck drivers are required to comply with the new HOS regulations starting on September 29, 2020. A few of these regulations have been revised for the September release. Some of the new additions include:

  • The short-haul exception has been expanded to 150 air-miles and allows a 14-hour on-duty period to take place as part of the exception.
  • The window for adverse driving conditions has been expanded by an additional 2 hours. The driving limit is extended only in the case of adverse driving conditions.
  • There is a 30 minute break requirement after every 8 hour period of driving time, instead of 8 hours on-duty time. The rest break requirement also allows an on-duty or non-driving period to count as the required break. 
  • The sleeper berth provision exception now aloows truck drivers to meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement by passing a minimum of 7 hours, rather than the previous limit of 8 hours, in the sleeper berth and a minimum period of 2 hours off-duty either inside or outside the berth. The two break periods need to total at least 10 hours and neither of them are allowed to qualify against the 14-hour driving window. This allows truck drivers to be more flexible with their rest break.

How Many Hours Can a Truck Driver Drive in California?

how-many-hours-can-a-truck-driver-drive-in-california

How many hours can a truck driver drive depends on the state. Truck drivers in California that hold a commercial driver’s license must comply with the related state regulations. The federal motor carrier safety administration (FMCSA) imposes driving limits, hours of service regulations (HOS) and set duty time for the state of California. All trucking companies and their drivers must comply. Any violations could result in an increased risk to health and safety.

Californian HOS regulations are in place to reduce the risk of drowsy or fatigued truck drivers. As in most states, the number of hours a truck driver can drive in California depends on their work schedule and whether they drive a property-carrying or passenger-carrying vehicle. 

Property-carrying truck drivers are allowed an 11-hour driving maximum but only following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Passenger-carrying truck drivers, on the other hand, have a 10-hour driving maximum after 8 hours off the clock. Neither type of truck driver are allowed to operate a truck for more than 60 hours over 7 consecutive days, or 70 hours over 8 consecutive days.  

Property-carrying truck drivers are only permitted to drive for a maximum of 14 hours consecutively, following a 10 hour rest break off duty. For passenger-carrying drivers this is extended to 15 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend into the 14 or 15 hour periods.  

Sleeper berth provisions in California require commercial truck drivers to take rest breaks in their sleeper berths after a maximum number of hours driving. The FMCSA requires drivers to rest to prevent fatigue for a minimum of 10 minutes every 4 hours and take a meal break for at least 30 minutes every 5 hours. 

The FMCSA recently passed a law in California to eliminate paid rest breaks for truck drivers. Under the new law, truck companies in California are required by law to offer paid rest breaks. Truck drivers are still required to take breaks, however. Seen as regular rest breaks are a legal requirement according to California law, the majority of companies still offer these paid or compensated. 

In California, truck drivers must be relieved of all duties during non-driving hours and breaks. If they work during meal breaks or do not get adequate breaks they are entitled to an additional hour’s pay. Their first meal break can be waived, however, if both the driver and employer agree to it. The second meal break can also be waived according to the same conditions providing that the first meal break was taken. 

California law states that truck drivers that have more than 10 and up to 12 hours a day require 3 rest breaks. Whereas, no rest period is required for truck drivers who work less than 3.5 hours per day. Truck drivers involved in interstate commerce must follow federal regulations. This requires them to take 30 minutes off duty no later than 8 hours after they begin their driving shift. 

If you’re looking for work as a truck driver it’s a good idea to find out about the specific laws in your state. A truck company can also help you to find more information on driving limits, and what’s expected of you as a truck driver. Long-haul drivers will normally have to follow federal regulations if interstate travel is required. 

According to the federal motor carrier safety administration the driving limits are more or less standardized. You might find slight differences in how many hours a truck driver can drive depending on the state, but in general and for interstate commerce it’s 14 hours, with a 30 minute break after 8 consecutive hours. 

The number of hours is sometimes increased due to exceptions such as adverse driving conditions and duty time. The hours of service regulations state that a 7 day week should consist of no more than 60 hours of driving time and an hour limit of 70 hours over 8 days. As a driver it’s required by law that you get adequate breaks as your safety is paramount.

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