What Is the DOT 14 Hour Rule?

The number of consecutive hours that commercial drivers are allowed to drive and work each day is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Developed with driver safety in mind, these rules cover more than just driving hours and when to take mandatory rest breaks.

Exhausted and drowsy drivers are a danger to themselves and others on the road. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and FMCSA refer to these rules as Hours of Service rules. Strict Hours of Service rules like the DOT 14-hour rule were created to protect drivers and ensure they are not driving too many hours without stopping for rest.

What Is the DOT 14-hour Rule?

Understanding the 14-hour DOT rule and how it works is essential for all commercial fleet drivers. The DOT 14-hour rule details how long commercial drivers can work during a 24-hour period. The rule dictates that drivers must fit all of their driving time for the day into a 14-hour shift. They must then take a mandatory 10 hours off-duty period after the 14 consecutive hours on duty.

This seems straightforward, but some confusion often arises around how many hours drivers are actually driving in this 14-hour period. The 14-hour window is generally thought of as the limit of hours per day, although these hours are not tied to a 24-hour clock. The 14-hour driving period begins when a truck driver, or any fleet driver, starts working, not when they begin driving. And remember that part about mandatory breaks? This is where the 11-hour rule comes in.

What Is the 11-hour Rule?

The 11-hour rule works within the 14-hour rule. The 14-hour logbook rule covers a driver's entire shift, including driving time and break time. This does not include the ten-hour mandatory break after the 14-shift, but the driving time within the 14 consecutive hours. The 11-hour rule states that drivers may NOT drive for more than 11 total hours during their 14-hour shift.

This means that three hours of the 14 hours are non-driving hours or breaks. These breaks can be spread out during the 14-hour shift in any way the driver prefers as long as they do not drive more than 11 consecutive hours.

In addition, drivers are required to take a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving. This 30-minute rule is strictly enforced. For example, if a driver is in the sleeper berth and they are asked to move their vehicle, the rest period is broken when the ELD detects the ignition turning on.

This 30-minute break rule applies to driving hours only. Drivers can perform non-driving tasks, such as unloading or loading, after driving for eight hours. This means they can use the on-duty, not driving status instead of the off-duty status.

What Is the 70-hour Rule?

In addition to the two rules above, there is also the 70-hour rule that states that drivers cannot exceed 70 consecutive hours either driving or performing other duties for a period of eight consecutive days. The 70-hour clock is reset after the driver has been in the sleeper berth or off-duty time for 34 hours. There is also a variation of the 70-hour rule called the 60-hour rule. This rule sets an on-duty limit of 60 hours during seven consecutive days.

The Significance of Drivers Being Able to Pause Their 14-hour Clocks

In September 2020, an update to the HOS rule allowed drivers to pause their 14-hour on-duty clocks for several hours per shift, among other changes. Drivers can now split their ten-hour off-duty break into 8/2 hours or choose a new 7/3-hour option. Unlike the old rules, the shorter break doesn't count towards drivers' 14 hours of on-duty time. (The 8/2 split is already excluded from drivers' hours.)

For drivers who decide to split any duty day, they are required to take one split of a minimum of seven hours and one of a minimum of two hours, as long as both totals at least ten hours. Both of those breaks will pause the 14-hour on-duty clock. Breaks can be longer than the 8/2 and 7/3 options, as long as the break time totals ten hours. And if the length of the two breaks in any split lasts ten hours, drivers can reset the 14-and 11-hour clocks completely.

This rule change can be used to maximize drivers' schedules. For example, if a break is more than seven hours, it might make sense for a driver to take ten off-duty hours so that they can reset their on-duty clock to 14 hours. And if a break that was meant to be three hours runs long, say four or five hours, turning it into a seven-hour break will open up the possibility of more on-duty and drive hours, depending on the driver's schedule and rest needs.

Boiled down into simpler terms, the shorter of the splits lets drivers pause their 14-hour clock for a minimum of two hours and for as long as they wish, as long as they take another break to accompany the earlier one. And as long as breaks – the two-hour minimum and the seven-hour maximum – total ten or more hours off-duty. This creates more flexibility in drivers' schedules.

HOS Tracking Solutions

The 2017 ELD mandate requires that drivers have an FMCSA-approved ELD or electronic logging device installed. The ELD automatically logs the time and ensures that the driver's hours are accurately recorded. The final deadline for compliance was December 16, 2019.

Prior to the ELD mandate, it was pretty much impossible to make sure that commercial drivers followed the HOS rules. Paper logbooks were used, so altered or inaccurate logbooks were much more common. The ELD mandate prevents dangerous practices and creates a universal standard that makes HOS tracking more accurate and straightforward. Check out our glossary of ELD terms to learn more.

Who Must Follow These Rules?

These HOS rules are a key part of commercial driving. They apply to most of the commercial drivers on the road today. Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers involved in interstate commerce are required to comply with HOS rules if their fleet vehicle:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more.
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more.
  • Transports hazardous materials in any quantity that requires placards.
  • Is used or designed for the transport of 16+ passengers, driver included, not for compensation.
  • Is used or designed for the transport of 9+ passengers, driver included, for compensation.

Interstate commercial drivers not only have to follow federal laws but also comply with state HOS laws as well. One of the most important things a driver can do is confirm that their ELD complies with federal and state regulations.

Hours of Service Regulations Violation Penalties

If law enforcement finds a driver in violation of a HOS rule, they stop that truck in its tracks. If this happens, the truck sits on the side of the road until the driver has enough off-duty time to be in compliance and can again drive the truck. This means the truck could be stuck for 10-34 hours. Although a fine isn't levied the downtime will impact the business's bottom line.

However, law enforcement can assess fines according to local and state laws. In addition, the FMCSA can apply civil penalties to the carrier or driver. These fines can range from $1,000-$16,000 for each violation, depending on its severity. The most egregious violations will get the biggest fines. If hazardous materials are involved in the violation, the fine could be more than $75,000.

If a driver or carrier racks up too many violations and it becomes a pattern of violations, the driver or carrier's safety rating can take a hit, and the compliance, safety, and accountability or CSA score will be downgraded. A downgraded CSA may result in a range of enforcement actions. A carrier or fleet manager that knowingly allows violations may find that they are the subject of federal criminal penalties.

Hours of service violation penalties include:

  • Drivers may not be allowed to drive until they have enough off-duty hours to be compliant.
  • The FMCSA may penalize a carrier or a driver in an amount ranging from $1,000 to $11,000 for each violation.
  • A carrier's safety rating may be downgraded.
  • Carriers that willfully and knowingly require or let drivers violate HOS rules may be penalized.
  • Drivers who willfully and knowingly violate HOS regulations may also be penalized.

Key Features of MiX Telematics' ELD Compliance Solutions

MiX offers telematics solutions that comply with all ELD mandate requirements. In addition, we offer full-featured ELD solutions that help fleets significantly reduce costs through the improvement of fleet compliance, safety, and efficiency.

DOT/non-DOT Mode – gives drivers the ability to determine a vehicle's DOT or non-DOT status for a specified driving period. This is essential for vehicles that need to comply with DOT regulations and roadside inspections only when they are trailered.

MiX HOS Time Clock – a web portal that allows drivers to log on-duty/off-duty hours, print log, view violations, and more without needing a vehicle display.

Multiple Driver Log On – in-cab displays let multiple drivers log in at the same time. This works for crew trucks and slip seating.

Time Clock Mode – when a group of team members is being transported to a job site, the display serves as a log-in for all of them.

"Follow Me" Logs – drivers can switch between different vehicles at a moment's notice and manage their compliance whether they are in or out of cellular coverage without needing expensive backup satellite communications. The electronic logbook goes with drivers and synchronizes in parallel over the air.

Contact us today if you are looking for an ELD solution that goes beyond HOS compliance and helps improve overall fleet efficiency.

A fully-implemented and supported MiX Telematics solution is guaranteed to improve driver safety and reduce accident rates while also lowering risk, liability and cost.

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