Lots of new truck drivers ask, “How many hours can a truck driver drive?” According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a truck driver can drive a maximum of 11 hours in a day.
Many truck drivers are excited by the idea of pulling long hours on the open road. Not only do they get to enjoy the scenery and the sense of freedom, but they also get to earn a lot of money while doing it. However, there are some very serious risks that come with driving for hours and hours on end. Let’s dig into some of the legal and medical issues that surround long-haul trucking
How Many Hours Can a Truck Driver Drive? Ask the FMCSA
Although transporting the freight that keeps the country running smoothly is vital, safety on the roads and interstates is infinitely more important. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, shares this sentiment. That’s why they clearly state that truck drivers can drive for a maximum of 11 hours.
The 11 hour limit is a general rule that was implemented to prevent driver fatigue. Although people regularly drive tired, “drowsy driving” can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. According to the National Sleep Foundation:
“Drowsy driving is dangerous because sleep deprivation can have similar effects on your body as drinking alcohol. Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .05 (for reference, .08 is considered drunk). If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours and drive—say, after a night where you just couldn’t fall asleep—it’s like you have a blood alcohol level of .10.”
Driving drowsy means you have poor reaction times, impaired decision making, and tunnel vision. These three effects are major hazards on the road, and they put your life and other motorists’ lives at risk. That’s why it’s important to abide by this time frame.
Now, a maximum of 11 hours sounds pretty straightforward, but there’s a lot more to it. The FMCSA implemented the 11 hour limit as a part of their hours-of-service regulations.
What Are the Hours-of-Service Limits?
The hours-of-service limits outline a few basic rules for commercial motor vehicle drivers. In short, you must follow 3 maximum duty limits at all times:
- The 14 hour driving window limit. The 14 hour limit dictates the maximum length for your “work day.” This means that you have a 14 hour window in which you may drive up to 11 hours, but only after you’ve been off for a minimum of 10 consecutive hours. Once the 14 hours is up, regardless of whether or not you’ve driven for 11 hours, you are required to rest for 10 or more hours before you’re allowed to drive again.It’s important to note that the 14 hours begins once you begin any kind of work, not just driving. You should also know that the 14 hour time limit doesn’t stop if you take a break or even a nap.
- The 11 hour driving limit. 11 hours is the official limit for how many hours a truck driver can drive within 14 hours. It should be noted, however, that it’s illegal to drive those 11 hours consecutively. After 8 hours of driving (within the 14 hour window), you’re required to take a minimum 30 minute break before you resume. So, if we’re being specific, truck drivers can only drive a maximum of 8 hours straight.
- The 60 hour/7 day and 70 hour/8 day limit. This limit is not based on the days of the week. Rather, it’s based on a “rolling” 7 or 8 day period. The rules for this one can be a little complex, but to explain it simply, you can drive a maximum of 60 hours in 7 days and 70 hours in 8 days. By law, you are required to follow 1 of these 2 limits. At the end of your 7 or 8 day period, you must take at least 34 hours off-duty before you can resume driving.
The official document which explains these regulations in great depth, as well as provides examples, can be found here on the FMCSA’s website.
Do I Have to Comply With These Regulations?
If you drive a commercial motor vehicle involved in interstate commerce, then you must comply with the FMCSA’s regulations.
A commercial motor vehicle is defined as a truck or a tractor-trailer with a trailer that:
- Weighs, including the load, 10,001 pounds or more
- Has a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) or GCWR (gross combined weight rating) of 10,001 pounds or more
- Transports enough hazardous materials to require placards
Now, to fully understand the definition of a commercial motor vehicle, we’ll briefly define “interstate commerce.” Interstate commerce refers to the transportation of cargo between two or more states. The second the cargo leaves the distributor, it is considered interstate commerce until it’s delivered to its destination.
So, if the truck you’re driving meets those weight or cargo requirements, and you’re transporting cargo between more than one state, then you absolutely must comply with the FMCSA hours-of-service regulations.
On the other hand, “intrastate commerce” involves cargo that’s transported within a state. Technically, if you’re hauling intrastate commerce, the hours-of-service regulations do not apply to you. However, each state has strict regulations regarding driving time that you’re required to follow so you can avoid driver fatigue.
What Else Should I Know?
Before we move on, let’s discuss daily driver’s logs.
In order to keep track of your time, you must complete a daily driver’s log. These are to be filled out by you unless your time is being electronically recorded using an on-board device. Your log must cover all 24 hours of each day, and you must leave nothing out.
Government inspectors regularly check truck drivers’ logs to ensure they’re operating within the federal regulations. Failure to present a log, or presenting an incomplete or falsified log, will result in violations that could lead to fines, suspensions, or even the loss of your CDL.
How Many Hours Can a Truck Driver Drive? Find out More at Truck Driver Institute
As you can see, driving trucks isn’t as straightforward as hopping into the seat and cruising down the road. There are strict regulations that surround everything we do. These regulations are put in place to protect our safety and the safety of others. Failure to comply with them results in penalties or — worse — injury or death to you or fellow drivers.
Truck Driver Institute teaches you everything you need to know about driving big trucks, including the non-driving activities like keeping logs, doing other paperwork, and remaining compliant with federal regulations. We give you the tools you need to become a safe, confident, and skillful driver.
To learn more about getting your CDL with TDI, contact us today. We’re excited to hear from you!
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