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graph_image2The Federal Department of Transportation, (DOT) enforces a variety of safety regulations on anyone who operates trucks in interstate commerce. These regulations are numerous, and complex. They are confusing, aggravating, and overwhelming. But fear not! I will attempt to simplify one of the most important categories of regulations: hours of service and logbooks.

What are hours of service?

The DOT believes it must limit the amount of time truck drivers spend behind the wheel. Without these regulations, they think drivers will drive until they collapse from sleepiness and exhaustion, causing mayhem and death.

How seriously does DOT take these rules?

They take them very seriously. If you fail to comply with any of them, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in penalties. DOT fines are often outrageous. A carrier who has 10 drivers who are not taking their 30-minute breaks when they should could easily be fined $15,000. Generally, DOT will usually let one or two isolated violations slide. However, if there are numerous violations, a company is looking at a big fine.

Do these hours of service regulations apply to you?

These hours of service rules apply to anyone operating trucks in interstate commerce. “Trucks”, or more accurately, commercial motor vehicles, are defined as any vehicle or combination of vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 10,001 lbs. or more. The GVWR of a vehicle is a value assigned by the manufacturer. It is often found on a metal plate on the inside of the doorjamb. A one-ton pickup truck usually has a GVWR of around 10,000 or 11,000 lbs., for example.

‘Interstate commerce’ generally means trucks crossing state lines for a business purpose. So, certainly, tractor-trailers traveling throughout the country are subject to these rules. However, other types of trucks are subject as well. For example, a one-ton pickup truck, pulling a trailer across state lines in support of a business, such as construction, is also subject to these rules.

Even if you do not cross state lines, the rules still may apply to you. If you stay within one State, the rules within that State apply to you. All States have some kind of truck safety regulations, which includes State specific hours of service rules. Many have adopted the Federal rules almost exactly, such as Maryland and New York. Others, such as New Jersey and Texas, only apply the safety rules to bigger type vehicles, which have a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or more. If you stay within one State you should check with your local State Police or Highway Patrol to find out if your truck is subject to the rules.

Basically, if you are driving anything bigger than a ¾ ton pickup truck for a business purpose, the hours of service rules very well may apply to you.

Join us next week, for part 2, as we look at how Hours of Service are Recorded.

The Hours of Service Regulations – An Overview is a blog series prepared for BigRoad by Eric Arnold of Arnold Safety Consulting. It is a simple, yet comprehensive, look at main points of the trucking hours of service rules. During the 3 parts it will discuss who must comply with the hours of service rules, how the hours of service are recorded, and how many hours a driver is allowed to work and drive. The Federal Department of Transportation commercial motor vehicle hours of service rules are relatively complex, and contain dozens, if not hundreds, of nuances, interpretations, and gray areas. It would be impossible to cover all of the various specific interpretations in a few blog posts. The description of the hours of service rules is meant to be an overview of the rules. It is not a complete, detailed description of the rules. If you want to view the actual rules, they are found in 49 CFR Part 395, which is more commonly referred to Part 395 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

Part 2: How are Hours of Service Recorded
Part 3: How Many Hours are Drivers Allowed to Drive?

About the Author: Eric Arnold

Eric Arnold

Eric Arnold, President of Arnold Safety Consulting, Inc., Birdsboro, PA, is a former U.S. Department of Transportation agent, with 24 years regulatory and transportation compliance experience. He is an expert on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. More information about Mr. Arnold can be found at www.arnoldsafetyblog.com.