How many hours can you drive in a day?
This is a question I get asked occasionally. The short answer is eleven. However, there are other rules that have to be followed which affect this. These rules consume many pages in the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Regulations or FMCSR, put out by the Federal Motor Carriers Administration or FMCSA. The area covering this is known as Hours of Service or HOS.
There are three clocks/rules which I have to keep watch over to legally drive. They are the 11 hour rule, 14 hour rule and 70 hour rule. I’ll start with the eleven and work my way through the others.
When a driver starts driving he has to make a log entry, or move his line to line 3 on his log, which is called “On Duty Driving”. A driver’s log has four lines and a continuos line must be drawn, like on an EKG, to connect all of his logging activities. See picture for more detail. Anyway, when he stops to take a break, or get fuel, or anything else for that matter, the 11 hour clock stops and he can move his line to one of the other three lines, 1 Of- Duty, 2 Sleeper or 4 On-Duty Not Driving. Then when he is finished with that and goes back on the road the 11 hour clock resumes counting. When a cumulative total of line 3 episodes equals 11 hours he must stop driving and take at least a 10 hour off-duty break before driving again. Generally, a driver stops earlier than this because there is rarely a truck stop located exactly where he wants one.
Sound fairly simple so far? OK, let’s move on. You might be thinking, I could drive an hour on and an hour off for 22 hours, which doesn’t sound very safe. Well the FMCSA made sure to write a rule preventing that. It is the 14 hour rule, which is a great bone of contention for many professional drivers. This rule starts when a driver first begins his day, usually on line 4 when he does his pre-trip inspection of his truck, and does not stop and can only be reset with the 10 hour off-duty rule. Under this rule, the driver cannot drive after 14 hours from the start of day, so while all those breaks are taking place, the 14 hour clock keeps ticking. Even if the driver only drove for 3 or 4 hours that day once the 14 hour limit is reached he may not drive any more.
This creates problems when a driver has to move the truck early in the morning and make a delivery, then go back to the truck stop and wait for a dispatch. He may have only worked for 1 or 2 hours and now has nothing to do while waiting for more work. Then several hours later he gets a dispatch and wants to drive toward the pick up point, but will reach the limit of his 14 before getting there, so now he decides to wait out a 10 hour break and get up good and early, like 1 or 2 AM and then start driving. There are many other examples of how this rule, which was meant to keep us and the motoring public safe, is really a hindrance to getting things done. But that’s the Government for you, any rule that starts out good will quickly be squashed by other rules. Of course a driver may perform work, like getting fuel or washing out a trailer, after 14 hours, they just can’t drive until 10 hours after performing any work. Got it?
So what’s this 70 hour rule? The 70 hour rule states that a driver cannot drive after he has performed 70 hours of work (which includes all line 3 and 4 time) in an 8 day period. So what this all really means is that if a driver wants to drive every day for a stretch, each day should average 8.75 hours of combined driving and other work. So all those profitable 11 hour driving days are quickly squelched by shorter days. If a driver accumulates a lot of hours quickly there is another rule which may allow him to work before reaching the 8th day. This is the 34 hour reset. A driver may reset the 70 hour clock by taking 34 continuous off-duty hours. This usually takes place when a driver goes home to spend time with family, but sometimes happens on the road, either because the driver is out of hours or because he is out of work and gets stuck sitting for more than 34 hours regardless of how many hours he has accumulated.
11 = Hours a driver can drive before he must take a 10 hour break.
14 = The number of hours a driver has available to drive the above 11 hours.
70 = The maximum hours that a driver can work in an 8 day cycle, after which he may not drive.
10 = Hours of off-duty time needed to restart the 11 and 14 hour clocks.
34 = Hours of off-duty time to reset the 70 hour clock.
Now, if the above hasn’t confused you enough there are other rules, one in particular is the “Split Sleeper” rule. People might get confused when they hear us refer to taking an “8” hour break. They might say, “What are you talking about, Mr. T, I thought you said you had to take 10 hour breaks to drive again?” Well, we do, but one of the flexible rules that the FMSCA has given us is the 10 hour rule, which may be split into two separate, line 2 sleeper berth breaks of 8 hours and 2 hours. It can get very confusing, as the 2 hour break does not stop the 14 hour clock, but the 8 hour break does and only the portion of time not used going back to the previous break can be recaptured. It is so confusing that the FMCSR has a lot to say about it and there are many pages of examples of the right and wrong way to do it on the FMCSA web site. Many companies do not permit their drivers to use this rule as it can cause the driver to be in violation if they miscalculate how many hours they get back after each break.
By now you might be asking, “So if it’s so stinking confusing why do you do it Mr T.?” Well, it is a very handy hours-management tool when trying to adjust your schedule to make a pick up or delivery on time. Also, the number one reason why I use this rule is because I have a computer that keeps track of all my hours for me. Many companies are adding electronic logs to their fleet and that is what I have in my truck. Some drivers don’t want electronic logs because it prevents them form rounding things off or flat out running illegally. Since E-logs are what I have, I use them to my advantage to split my 10 hour break when it is the only way to get the job done.
Thanks for reading and now I give you back to Mrs. Trucker.
Today's Silly Sounding Place Name: Zelienople, Pennsylvania