On Duty and Drive Time Regulations Versus Miles-Based Driver Pay

Last Edited: March 10, 2017 // by TruckerScape, Inc.

The following article is extracted from the Government Regulations and Other Influences on Driver Behavior chapter in Tips for 4-Wheelers.  It describes key Hours of Service rules for OTR (over the road) long haul truck drivers, including rollbacks granted in The Federal Government Spending Bill for 2015 and their subsequent permanent suspension in 2017.

 

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Agency (FMCSA) Regulations

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Agency (FMCSA) Regulations are detailed and voluminous, filling a large book.  Here is a description of some key Hours of Service (HOS) regulatory constraints that OTR (over the road) long haul truck drivers deal with on a daily basis under the 8 day, 70 hour rules.  (These rules apply specifically to drivers of property-carrying trucks equipped with sleeper berths who drive every day of the week.)¹

NOTE:  The Federal Government Spending Bill for 2015 rolled back two provisions of these rules that were introduced in 2013, the two consecutive 1:00 A.M. to 5:00 A.M. nights off per reset and the mandatory minimum 168 hours from the start of one reset to start of the next, and the FMCSA was directed to perform more research on their costs and benefits.

In early March 2017, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released certification that the ensuing study by the FMCSA met the requirements set out by Congress and that the study “did not explicitly identify a net benefit from the use of the two suspended provisions on driver operations, safety, fatigue and health.”  As a result, the two provisions have been permanently suspended.²  References to them in this Tip have been retained in crossed out mode (xxxxx) to illustrate their previous effects on driver compliance.

Basic Limits

We are limited to 11 driving hours within any 14 hour “driving–on duty” window (encompassing driving plus other activities such as safety inspections, freight pickup and delivery operations, fueling and embedded breaks).  We must take at minimum a half hour break from driving (“off duty” activity such as napping in our sleeper berth, eating, and/or vacating the truck) any time within the first 8 hours of the 14 hour driving—on duty window.  A half hour break from driving is also required within any other continuous 8 hours in the 14 hour window.  Thus depending on when the first half hour break was taken, more than one half hour break may be required.

We are permitted to exceed 14 hours to perform non-driving on duty activities, but once we complete all on duty activities, we must take at least 10 hours off duty (including sleeping in our sleeper berth, eating, reading and/or vacating the truck) before getting a full new 11 hours to drive within a fresh 14 hour driving–on duty window.

Under the 8 day, 70 hour rule we are limited to 70 hours of on duty activity (work) within any 8 day (192 hour) period.  Days in this 8 day period are counted in whole days from midnight to midnight.  Time of day is tracked according to the time zone in which our home office resides.  To get a fresh 70 hours, we must take at least 34 hours off duty time (“restart” or “reset”). spanning two periods of 1:00 A.M. to 5:00 A.M.  We typically want to reset whenever we’re home.

Whenever we reach 70 hours of on duty activity in less than 8 days, we must stop working and take time off (reset).  More time off than the reset minimum may be required.  This is because each reset may begin only after at least 168 hours (7 24 hour periods as opposed to rounded midnight to midnight days) have elapsed since the date and time of day the previous reset was begun.

Rolling Hours

If we have worked 70 hours or less in the 8 whole days since the previous reset was completed (starting with the day we resume working), we have the option to “roll hours” instead of resetting.  That is, we may add to any remaining on duty time for Day Nine the on duty time expended on Day One, and drive and perform other work against that total.  On each ensuing day we may continue to work by adding to our unused on duty time the on duty time expended on the eighth day previous.  We may continue this process so long as we never exceed the 70 hour limit.  Rolling hours can provide some flexibility for resetting at home or another convenient place and time.

Split Sleeper Option

The split sleeper option is an alternative to taking a 10 hour off duty break to continue driving. We are permitted to satisfy the 10 hour break requirement with two shorter breaks, one of which must be at least 8 hours but less than 10 in our sleeper berth.  The other must be at least 2 hours but less than 10 off duty—this break may be any combination of sleeping and/or other off duty activity.

We can chain alternating sleeper berth and shorter off duty breaks, each break separated by a period of driving and/or other on duty activity.  A new driving—on duty window (encompassing driving plus other activities such as safety inspections, freight pickup and delivery operations, fueling and embedded breaks) is created every time a new pair of breaks has been taken.  It is important to note that each break must be started, though not necessarily completed, within the relevant driving—on duty window.  Following are more details on how the split sleeper mode works:

Either of the shorter breaks may be taken first to start the split sleeper process.  (Between any two of these breaks there will be some driving or other on duty activity, otherwise a continuous break of 10 hours or more would result in a full new 11 hours to drive within a fresh 14 hour driving—on duty window.)

Start with an 8 hours or more but less than 10 hours sleeper berth break:

First, assume a break of 10 hours or more is followed by some period of driving less than the 11 hour limit and/or some other on duty activity, and this period is followed by an 8 hours or more but less than 10 hours sleeper berth break.  A new driving—on duty window is generated, starting at the end of the period of driving and/or other on duty activity.

This new driving—on duty window equals 14 hours minus the total driving—on duty time expended between the 10 hours or more break and the 8 hours or more but less than 10 hours sleeper berth break.  According to the FMCSA, any 8 hours or more but less than 10 hours sleeper berth break must be excluded from the new driving—on duty window.  This means the sleeper break does not count as part of the new driving—on duty window, so the new window effectively begins at the end of the sleeper break.

The new driving—on duty window sets an upper limit on the amount of driving permitted following the 8 or more hours in the sleeper.  Within this upper limit, the amount of driving permitted is 11 hours minus any driving activity performed in the former driving—on duty window, i.e., 11 hours minus all driving performed between the end of the 10 hours or more break and the 8 hours or more sleeper berth break.

Apparently, this initial case may be regarded as satisfying the two separate breaks requirement by treating the 10 hours or more break as an initial break of 8 hours or more off duty or in the sleeper berth followed immediately by a 2 hours or more off duty or sleeper break.  The 2 hours or more portion becomes the first break in a pair with the subsequent 8 hours or more in the sleeper berth.

To continue in split sleeper mode the next break may be a short 2 hours or more off duty break, in keeping with the alternating series of breaks.  Upon completion of this short break a new driving—on duty window is generated, starting at the end of the previous period of driving and/or other on duty activity (i.e., the start of the 2 hours or more off duty break).  The new driving—on duty window equals 14 hours minus the total driving—on duty time expended between the 8 hours or more sleeper berth break and the 2 hours or more off duty break.

Unlike the 8 hours or more but less than 10 hours sleeper berth break, the shorter 2 hours or more off duty time must be included as part of the new driving—on duty window.  The 2 hours or more break counts as part of the new driving—on duty window, so the new window effectively begins at the start of the 2 hours or more break.

The new driving—on duty window sets an upper limit on the amount of driving permitted following the 2 hours or more break.  Within this limit, the amount of driving permitted following the 2 hours or more off duty break is 11 hours minus all driving performed between the 8 hours or more sleeper berth break and the 2 hours or more off duty break.

A third new driving—on duty window will be generated upon completion of another 8 hours or more sleeper berth break.  (Recall that each new pair of breaks must include at least one break of 8 hours or more in the sleeper berth.)  The third new driving—on duty window will effectively start at the end of the 8 hours or more sleeper berth break (remember, that break does not count as part of the new driving—on duty window).  The new driving—on duty window will equal 14 hours minus the total driving—on duty time expended between the 2 hours or more off duty break and the new 8 hours or more sleeper berth break.  Within this upper limit, the amount of driving permitted is 11 hours minus all driving performed between the 2 hours or more off duty break and the 8 hours or more sleeper berth break.

A fourth new driving—on duty window will be generated upon completion of another 2 hours or more off duty break.  The new window will start at the end of the previous period of driving and/or other on duty activity, i.e., the start of the 2 hours or more off duty break.  (Remember, the 2 hours or more off duty break counts as part of the new driving—on duty window.)  The new window will equal 14 hours minus the total driving—on duty time expended between the most recent 8 hours or more sleeper berth break and the new 2 hours or more off duty break.  The amount of driving permitted within this new upper limit is 11 hours minus all driving performed between the 8 hours or more sleeper berth break and the 2 hours or more off duty break.

The driving extension may continue with another 8 hours or more sleeper berth break, and so on.

Start with a 2 hours or more but less than 10 hours off duty break:

Now assume a break of 10 hours or more is followed by some period of driving less than the 11 hour limit and/or some other on duty activity, and this period is followed by the shorter 2 hours or more off duty break.  In this case a legitimate pair of breaks is not formed with the last 2 hours of the 10 hours or more break.  This is because each new pair of breaks must include at least one break of 8 hours or more in the sleeper berth, and we are apparently not permitted to use the last 8 hours of the 10 hours or more break even if that time was in the sleeper berth.  The 2 hours or more off duty break must await completion of another 8 hours or more sleeper berth break to generate a potential driving extension.

On completion of the 2 hours or more off duty break, a new driving—on duty window is generated.  It equals 14 hours minus the total driving –on duty time expended between the break of 10 hours or more and the start of the 2 hours or more off duty break.  (The 2 hours or more off duty break counts as part of the new window.)  The amount of driving permitted within this new upper limit is 11 hours minus all driving performed between the break of 10 hours or more and 2 hours or more off duty break.

NOTE:  The upper limit set by the new window and the amount of driving permitted within it are the same as for the driving—on duty time and drive time remaining in the original driving—on duty window following the break of 10 hours or more.  Thus this “new window” is really superfluous. If an 8 hours or more but less than 10 hours sleeper berth break subsequently starts any time within the original driving—on duty window, the window generated following the 2 hours or more off duty break will be replaced by a window starting at the end of the sleeper break.

Now assume some on duty work is performed following the 2 hours or more off duty break and then an 8 hours or more sleeper berth break starts within the original driving—on duty window.  The new driving—on duty window will start at the end of the 8 hours or more sleeper berth break (remember, that break does not count as part of the new driving—on duty window).  It will equal 14 hours minus the total driving—on duty time expended between the 2 hours or more off duty break and the new 8 hours or more sleeper berth break.  The amount of driving permitted within this new upper limit is 11 hours minus all driving performed between the 2 hours or more off duty break and the 8 hours or more sleeper berth break.

The driving extension may continue if some on duty work is performed and then another 2 hours or more break is started within the window extending from the end of the 8 hours or more sleeper berth break.  A new window will start at the end of the previous period of driving and/or other on duty activity, i.e., the start of the 2 hours or more off duty break.  (Remember, the 2 hours or more off duty break counts as part of the new driving—on duty window.)  The new window will equal 14 hours minus the total driving—on duty time expended between the 8 hours or more sleeper berth break and the new 2 hours or more off duty break.  The amount of driving permitted within this new upper limit is 11 hours minus all driving performed between the 8 hours or more sleeper berth break and the 2 hours or more off duty break.

The driving extension may continue with another 8 hours or more sleeper berth break, and so on.

The Basic Limits still hold:

The split sleeper process of continuing to drive using break pairs as described above may continue indefinitely so long as each new driving limit is not exceeded within each corresponding new driving—on duty window and total on duty time does not reach 70 hours in less than 8 days, or until we finally take a full continuous 10 hours off duty.  Note that other activities such as safety inspections, freight pickup and delivery operations, fueling and embedded breaks must be allowed for in each new driving—on duty window.  Also the half hour break rule still applies within any continuous 8 hour period within each new driving—on duty window.  If the split sleeper process is continued beyond 8 days, rolling hours comes into play which may or may not further limit available on duty and drive times.

In a few situations I have found the split sleeper option to be useful, over one or two break pairs.  But once I’ve begun a long rest I usually complete the 10 hours, then get a fresh 11 hours to drive within a fresh 14 hour driving–on duty window.  While I prefer the KISS (keep it simple stupid) approach and rarely resort to split sleeper mode, other drivers use it more frequently.  Split sleeper use may be dictated by certain challenging schedules.  Its use is also common by each driver in a team in which two people alternate driving one truck.

Miles-Based Pay

A factor seemingly at odds with these regulations that affects me and most other OTR drivers is miles-based pay.  Freight customers are usually charged by billable miles between shipper and consignee.  The distance may be set according to a standard atlas figure or an odometer reading, or more commonly these days, calculated by some specified GPS navigation product.  Load weight may be factored into the charge.

Trucking companies assign freight loads as effectively and efficiently as possible to maximize asset (driver and truck) productivity and thus profits.  Most companies align OTR drivers’ goals with theirs by paying for billable miles travelled (may or may not be actual driven miles).  To maximize our pay we are incented to drive as fast and far as we can each day so long as our driving is safe and lawful and complies with regulations.

Until recently we used paper logs to keep track of our time each day.  But my company and many others have automated this process with on board GPS-based computer systems that track our driving plus other on duty/off duty activities and truck performance and also improve communications with company management.  These new tools improve regulation compliance and operational efficiency.

Regulations and technology advances have driven companies to perform more effective and efficient planning and scheduling.  Tight scheduling (with little slack time) from one load to the next means that time lost one day may never be made up in ensuing days.  As a result, I and many other drivers have come to regard every minute of every day on duty as precious.  There are loads on which I wring every last minute to drive from available on duty time.  Obviously, dealing with the constraints described above requires some careful attention and planning.

One of the most aggravating causes of lost time is faulty local directions to docks and other freight pickup and delivery sites.  Inaccurate, incomplete, ambiguous and/or unusable surface street directions to negotiate the final few miles and feet to our destinations often result in awkward, stressful, time-consuming and dangerous recovery maneuvers.  Avoiding lost time, fuel waste, stress and late arrivals with superior local directions is one of the primary benefits provided by the Docktion® Local Directions for Truckers by Truckers website service.

Citations

¹J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc.; Copyright 2016; U.S. Department of Transportation; Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Pocketbook No. 347 (Includes all revisions effective on or before April 1, 2016); “PART 395—HOURS OF SERVICE OF DRIVERS;” §395.1 (g) pp 496–497; and §395.3 pp 503-504

²CMCA (Colorado Motor Carriers Association); ­Hot Sheet; March 7, 2017; “DOT INSPECTOR GENERAL CERTIFIES DOT REPORT SHOWING NO SAFETY BENEFIT TO RESTART RESTRICTIONS”

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