What to Know About the

DOT Hours of Service


In July 2020, the Department of Transportation (DOT)/Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a Final Rule regarding their hours of service regulations. The goal was to increase flexibility for commercial drivers without negatively affecting highway safety. These changes took effect starting on September 29, 2020. It’s important for motor carriers to understand the most recent DOT hours of service/HOS rules so that they can avoid violations. If you are looking for more general information about these regulations, our electronic logging device (ELD) page includes a chart that lists these for both property-carrying and passenger-carrying drivers.

Here are the recent changes for the DOT Final Rule on HOS:

Expands the Short-Haul Exemption

The FMCSA requires that most types of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) have ELDs installed. However, there are some exceptions for specific circumstances. One of these is the short-haul exemption. This allows drivers who meet certain requirements to keep physical records instead of using an ELD. While some of the requirements are the same, the DOT Final Rule updated the maximum air-mile radius and on-duty time.

The following requirements remain the same after the new Final Rule:

  • Drivers using the short-haul exemption must return to the same work reporting location at the start and end of their shift.
  • It is necessary to keep a time card that includes the start and end of a shift as well as the total number of hours worked daily.

The Final Rule updated these factors:

  • Before September 29, drivers using the short-haul exemption had to travel within a radius of 100 air miles. The Final Rule extended this to 150 air miles.
  • The maximum on-duty time has been extended from 12 hours to 14 hours.

Adverse Driving Conditions

Sometimes, adverse conditions make it unsafe for a driver to stop before they go over their time limit. DOT hours of service regulations include an exemption for these circumstances. If adverse driving conditions were not known ahead of time, the maximum driving time could be extended from 11 hours to 13 hours. However, this did not affect the 14 hour maximum for on-duty time. After the most recent changes took effect, the on-duty maximum extends by two hour as well, increasing not only the maximum driving time but also the “window” in which this can occur.

30-Minute Break

Previously, property-carrying drivers were required to take a break (off-duty or sleeper berth) of 30 minutes or more if they had been on duty for eight hours. The new requirement modifies the eight hour time period to include driving only. The break can also now include time spent on duty, but not driving.

Sleeper Berth Exemption

Under the previous regulations, there were two different ways to meet the off-duty hours requirement. A driver could take 10 consecutive hours off duty or could split this up into a minimum of eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus at least two separate consecutive hours off duty. The second option is called the sleeper berth exemption. The Final Rule modified this so a driver can now take a minimum of seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus at least three separate consecutive hours off duty.

DOT Hours of Service Education Tool

The DOT/FMCSA released an online tool that drivers and carriers can use to better understand the latest changes to HOS regulations. Educational Tool for Hours of Service (ETHOS) allows users to input hypothetical hours and also includes some sample scenarios showing compliance and non-compliance. This tool is designed for educational purposes only and is not meant to monitor actual compliance. However, it can be very helpful to see how the regulations could apply to real-world situations.

Your Partner in Compliance

With so many changes to DOT rules and regulations, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. HDS Safety Services can help. We offer ELD monitoring services and can keep your fleet up-to-date with the latest standards.

To learn more about how we can help with DOT hours of service compliance, contact us today.

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