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Interstate Truck Driver’s Guide to Hours of Service

What Are the Hours-of-Service Regulations?

As the driver of a large, heavy truck, you have a lot of responsibility as you drive down the road. The biggest concern is safety. That brings us to the main reason for the hours-of-service regulations – to keep fatigued drivers off the public roadways. These regulations put limits in place for when and how long you may drive, to ensure that you stay awake and alert while driving, and on a continuing basis to help reduce the possibility of driver fatigue.

The hours-of-service regulations are found in Part 395 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. These regulations are developed and enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is part of the United States Department of Transportation. (States may have identical or similar regulations, as we will explain later).

Who Must Comply With the Hours-of-Service Regulations?

You must follow the hours-of-service regulations if you drive a commercial motor vehicle. Just what is a commercial motor vehicle?

In general it is a truck, or truck-tractor with a trailer, that is involved in interstate commerce and:

  • Weighs (including any load) 10,001 pounds (4,536 kg) or more, or
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds (4,536 kg) or more, or
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring

We will describe these terms in greater detail in the next sections of this document.

**NOTE** There are exceptions to certain hours-of-service requirements for some operations. These will be covered later in this section.

**NOTE** Be aware that we are only talking here about the hours-of-service regulations. For other areas of Federal regulation, the definition of commercial motor vehicle will vary, for example drug and alcohol regulations and commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements.

Interstate/Intrastate Commerce

To help you understand the definition of a commercial motor vehicle, let’s talk about the meanings of interstate commerce and intrastate commerce. Commerce deals with buying and selling goods and services. It also deals with moving those goods from place to place or going somewhere to perform the service. Basically any work done in support of a business is considered to be commerce.

Interstate commerce occurs when the shipper intends to have cargo transported to another state or country. That cargo is in interstate commerce from the moment it leaves that shipper until it arrives at its destination. If your truck hauls that cargo, even within a single state, that transportation is considered to be in interstate commerce.

If you operate in interstate commerce once in a while, you are not required to comply with the Federal hours-of-service regulations all of the time. You must follow the Federal hours-of-service regulations while you are operating in interstate commerce. At the point you start driving in interstate commerce you must have logs with you for your last 7 days (unless you were not required to log).

You must also follow the Federal hours-of-service regulations for a short period of time after you finish operating in interstate commerce. If you were using the 60-hour/7-day schedule, you must follow the Federal hours-of-service regulations for the next 7 days after you finish operating in interstate commerce. If you were using the 70-hour/8-day schedule, you must follow the Federal hours-of-service regulations for the next 8 days after you finish operating in interstate commerce.

Intrastate commerce means transportation not covered by the definition of interstate commerce.

Usually (but not always) that means the cargo stays, or the services occur, within a single State.

If you are operating in intrastate commerce only, the Federal hours-of-service regulations do not apply to you. However, most States have regulations that are similar or identical to the Federal regulations. To determine what State safety requirements you must follow, you should contact the appropriate State agency. This is usually the State police, highway patrol, or an office within the State’s department of transportation.

Sometimes your truck may be empty. In these cases your truck is still considered to be in commerce because it is being used to support a business. Even if it is empty, you are considered to be operating in interstate commerce if you go outside of your State or remain within your State but recently carried cargo that was being transported in interstate commerce. If the truck is empty and you are operating inside your State, you are operating in intrastate commerce, provided you did not recently carry cargo that was being transported in interstate commerce.

 

Personal Use of a Commercial Motor Vehicle

It is possible that occasionally you may not use a truck in commerce at all. You may be moving your personal belongings to a new house or, as a hobby, you may be taking your horses to a horse show. As long as the activity is not in support of a business, the Federal hours-of-service regulations do not apply to you.

If you are not operating your truck in commerce, you are not subject to the hours-of-service regulations.

Weight Ratings

A vehicle can be a commercial motor vehicle based on what it actually weighs or on what its weight rating is, whichever is greater.

To find the gross vehicle weight rating of a truck or tractor, open the driver’s door and look for a plate on the door frame. In some models, the plate might be inside the glove box. To find the gross weight rating of a towed unit, look for a plate on the front of the trailer. If the trailer has a tongue, the plate might be on the tongue of the trailer. Your truck may have a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) posted in the same manner as the gross vehicle weight rating. If it does not, to figure the GCWR, add the gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) or gross vehicle weights, of the power unit and towed unit, that provides the highest value. NOTE: The GCWR of a power unit is only applicable when it is towing another unit.

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