How to Avoid Hours of Service Violations

Updated: Mar 6

What Are Hours of Service?

If you are just getting started in trucking or have a US DOT number, you have to follow Hours of Service guidelines. You will find the actual rules in 49 CFR Part 395. When I started over 20 years ago, everything was paper logs. I’ve had my CDL for what feels like forever and to be honest, when I first started, I didn’t know the HOS rules at all. I was taught how to falsify, have duplicate and sometime triplicate log books, but I never understood why. I was just told that in order to stay out of trouble, always have at least 2 log books and hide one of them really well. Not my proudest moment obviously.

How I Solved My Problem

I am a horrible liar, and even worse at cheating. I get so nervous, thinking I am going to get caught cheating that I end up giving myself up pretty quickly. So, after a while I started to question why the hell I needed 2 log books in the first place. So, I did an experiment: I logged exactly what I did for 1 month, without cheating at all. I even logged on duty, not driving when I was working in the office or traveling for work but not driving. After the month was finished and on my off duty time, I took the log book to a weigh station that was not too far away from my home at the time. They were a little perturbed that I pulled in and parked in a pickup, but I just walked in and asked if they could help me figure out if I was in violation of any rules. Keep in mind this is about 20 years ago, so I feel like there are probably some kind of statute of limitations here.

Was it worth it?

After spending some time with the very patient troopers at the weigh station, asking several questions, getting feedback from a few of them here and there, what I discovered was that I was never actually in violation at all. I had spent years falsifying logs, being scared to death of getting caught only to discover that the whole time I probably would never have been in violation in the first place. Needless to say, I was quite irritated at myself. I was not a long haul driver, I didn’t even own what you would call a “Trucking Company;” I just had a business that used regulated vehicles in the course of doing business. I could see where Long Haul drivers may have had a different experience, though. But for me and my drivers, we were going through a lot of trouble to stay out of trouble when we never would have been in any trouble in the first place… what a waste of time and energy! Through all of this, and with the help of those troopers and many more all over the country, reading the regulations, asking a lot questions and auditing all of my drivers logs every week, I got pretty good at understanding how it all worked and why. So I would say, totally worth it!

Hours of Service Overview:

Just FYI, there are actually a lot of variables when you are operating pickups and trailers, Intrastate & Interstate have different CDL Class levels needed, etc. Sometimes I think trucking companies actually have it easier because the rules were kind of written for them and then they had to add all these other exemptions and provisions for the “Not a Trucking Company” type companies like I had, but that's a another subject.

Here are the basics, but like I said there are a lot of variables; depending on your type of operation it may be different for you and I simplifying everything here as well, so don’t take this too literally. If you want the exact details, our online course goes into more detail and gives more specific information and examples.

11 hours Driving Time – A driver can’t drive more than 11 hours per shift

14 hours on duty – A driver can work as many hours as he wants, he just can’t drive after he has been working for more than 14 hours

30 minute break – A driver has to log Off Duty and take a 30 minute break within 8 hours of coming on duty (Tip: if they take it between the 6th & the 8th hour, then they will only need to take 1)

70/8 day rule – This is a rolling clock basically, Once the driver hits 70 hours in an 8 day period that have to take 34 hours Off Duty to reset their clock. Don’t think of this rule as Monday through Monday, the days will always be changing.

60/7 day rule – If you don’t have normal operations 7 days a week then you pretty much have to use this rule instead of the 70/8 day rule. Same wording as the 70/8 day rule, but use 60 hours for 7 days instead.

For those of you who think “But I am not a trucking company” here is just a bit of clarification for you. If you have a USDOT #, THEN YOU ARE A TRUCKING COMPANY! The rules are exactly the same for you as they are for any other company out there regardless of what you are doing. Like I said, there are exemptions and exceptions for different operations, but they are just that- exceptions to the actual rules. It has nothing to do with CDL vs. Non CDL drivers.

Bonus Tip:

ALL drivers who operate a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) must have ALL of the following to operate that CMV..

1. Valid Drivers License appropriate to the vehicle they are driving

2. Medical Card

3. Method to track Hours of Service (this means Log books, ELD or Time Sheets)

4. Full Driver Qualification (DQ) File

Here is my point, even if you are a small operation with just pickups, you may still have to track the Hours of Service for your drivers. Your GPS is not going to cut it, and the fines for HOS violations can get pretty outrageous.

"But I have ELD’s…" Yep that is fine, but you still need to understand the HOS rules in order to self audit and validate any violations the ELD shows. Not to mention, what happens if the ELD fails? You and your drivers need to know how to use paper logs. We see quite a few violations on the ELD’s that are not actual violations when we manually review. That is a whole other blog, and course all about ELD’s. Whether you are using time sheets, ELD’s, or nothing in the hopes that the DOT never notices, you should still understand what the regulations are and how they apply to your operation. You may even figure out that you don’t have to use logs or ELD’s at all, and timesheets will work for you.

Online Course

Our HOS course is a full overview of the Hours of Service Regulations. Whether you are using timesheets, ELD’s, or nothing in the hopes that the DOT never notices, and you're regulated by the DOT, understanding these rules even when you may qualify for exemptions is key! Click HERE to check out our online course.

By taking this course you will:

  • Learn the details and specific examples of HOS Rules

  • Eliminate needless HOS violations and reduce DOT fines on the road and during audit

  • Understand how to log HOS the right way no matter if you use logbooks, ELD’s, or time sheets

What I am not going to do though, is show you how to keep duplicate logbooks. I will let a driver on Youtube show you that. In most cases, their advice for cheating the ELD’s or Log books is worth exactly what you will pay for it- nothing! Don’t rely on drivers on the internet who may or may not know what the heck they are doing teach your drivers. Most of what I see on the internet is downright false, or at the very least misinterpreted. There are a few good ones out there, but it is hard to know the difference sometimes; our goal is to be one of the good ones for you.

Bundle Up & Save

Of course you can purchase each course individually, but you can also bundle them together for almost 50% off the price you would pay for all courses separately!

CONTACT US if you have questions or to find out about other services we offer. I promise not to be a pushy salesperson or offer anything that won't actually help you!

Tyna Bryan is the CEO of D.O.T. Readiness Group and DOTReady Software. With 20+ years of experience working in the industry, Tyna has owned and managed several companies as well as consulted for hundreds of companies all over the United States. If you get the chance to meet Tyna, she's a spitfire who knows her stuff! She has been consulting and training on DOT compliance and regulations exclusively since 2009.

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