Hours Of Service (HOS) Training And Compliance: Your Ultimate Guide

Are you going to allow your drivers to drive constantly or without taking any rest? The driving time should be limited and you must not expect your drivers to keep the vehicle moving because this is only going to increase the risk of accidents on the highway. Your drivers must stay awake and alert. But if you want to ensure this, you must encourage them to comply with the hours of service (HOS) regulations. 

The 49 CFR 395 regulation talks about it in detail and lists down several rules and guidelines for drivers. The FMCSA and the US Department of Transportation have underlined the importance of this regulation several times. You must also invest enough time and resources in HOS-related training for drivers across your organization if you want to stay compliant. 

In this blog, we have tried to highlight some of the most basic things about the HOS rule that will give you an understanding of how essential it is for you and your drivers to follow them. They are critical for their safety and to keep your business DOT-compliant. 

Hours Of Service – Meaning And Importance

The literal meaning of it is the hours in a day that a driver is expected to provide his service to the motor carrier. It means that the maximum number of hours that a vehicle can be driven or a driver can drive that vehicle without causing any harm to his health or putting the vehicle or other people using the highway at any kind of risk. The HOS rule says that the driver should take mandatory break times or time off from his duty cycles regularly. 

This is to ensure that he gets enough rest and that his motor skills, sight, senses, and judgment are not compromised when on duty. Published in December 2011, the Hours Of Service Drivers Final Rule has been mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Countries like Canada, Australia, Brazil, and many others have their own hours of service regulations as well.

The Final Hours Of Service Rule And A Few Changes That It Has Gone Through

The final DOT hours of service rule has been made more flexible. It has become easier for motor carriers and drivers to comply with these regulations starting September 29th, 2020.

  • Short-Haul Exception

The short-haul exception is 150 air miles now. It also allows a 14-hour work shift.

  • Adverse Driving Conditions Exception

Drivers can now drive up to an additional 2 hours in the case of adverse driving conditions

  • 30-Minute Break Requirement

Drivers can now take an on-duty non-driving period of 30 minutes as their time off. They are required to do this after 8 hours of constant driving. The 30 consecutive minutes still apply.

  • Sleeper Berth Provision

The drivers can now spend 7 hours of the previously mentioned 10-hour minimum off-duty period on the berth. They can combine this with at least 2 hours spent inside or outside the berth. The total period should be at least 10 hours.

Understand Who Needs To Comply With The Hours Of Service Rules

As a part of your DOT hours of service training module, it is important for you to educate your drivers on whether they need to comply with it or not. If the duties and responsibilities of your drivers keep changing, they might have to punch in different hours of service and may be able to follow flexible resting periods as the case may be. But the following general rules apply to more or less every commercial motor vehicle driver.

  • Any driver who drives a motor vehicle of more than 10,000 LBS in weight must comply with these regulations
  • If the gross weight of the vehicle or the rating is more than 10,000 LBS, these rules will apply
  • In case the vehicle is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (which includes the driver) but not for compensation, the rules will apply
  • These rules shall apply if the vehicle being driven is designed and is being used to transport 9 or more passengers (which includes the driver) and for compensation
  • If you are transporting hazardous materials in a quantity that requires placarding, you will have to comply with these rules without fail

Preventing Hours of Service Violations: Why It Matters

  • When your driver operates more than 14 hours on duty; this is a clear violation
  • Driving for over 60 or 70 hours over a period of 7 or 8 days 
  • Violation of the 11-hour driving limit 
  • Not maintaining any record of duty status 
  • Keeping false or incorrect logs 
  • Wrong class of license on the driver

How An Official Can Identify Violations Made By Your Drivers

  • A motor carrier is required to keep track of the hours of service provided by every driver. He would be the first person to know whether the driver has committed any violations or not.
  • The police perform roadside inspections regularly and they can discover violations while they are being committed. 
  • The Department of Transportation can conduct an audit anytime and might discover hours of service violations.
  • In the case of a driver colliding his vehicle with something or meeting with an accident while operating over the hours of service limit, the violation will automatically be revealed.

Should You Be Worried About Fines And Penalties Related To Hours Of Service Violations?

Well, if you suspect that there have been any violations, you should be worried. These can have negative connotations for both the motor carrier and the driver.

  • Your drivers could be placed on shutdown
  • They must amass sufficient off-duty time to return to the road and demonstrate compliance.
  • Usually, state and local law enforcement officials will list down your fines and penalties and they won’t be kind
  • The Federal Motor Career Safety Administration may also impose civil penalties on the driver or the carrier (this can be anywhere between $1,000 to $16,000 per violation)
  • As a carrier, your safety rating may get downgraded depending on the pattern of violations committed by your drivers
  • And yes, there are federal criminal penalties as well which may be brought against the motor carrier who has been suspected of or found to knowingly and willfully allow these violations

Your drivers must understand the need for rest after 8 consecutive hours of driving. It’s crucial. You can educate your drivers about taking rest periods or time off because it concerns their safety and that of the vehicle and all other citizens of the country who use the road and highway network just like them. It also helps your company stay DOT-compliant throughout the year.

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