Time To Run

Driver may drive 10 hours after eight hours off-duty.
Driver may not drive after 15 hours on duty,
following eight hours off duty.
Driver may not drive after 60 hours on duty in seven consecutive days or 70 hours on duty in eight consecutive days.

Driver may drive 11 hours after 10 hours off-duty.
Driver may not drive beyond the 14th hour after coming on duty, following 10 hours off-duty.
Driver may not drive after 60 hours on duty in seven consecutive days or 70 hours on duty in eight consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 consecutive hours off duty.

Owner-operators who can take advantage of the new hours-of-service rule’s allowances may find the changes a boon for business.

“It all boils down to time management,” says Steve McFarlin, a retired owner-operator and former fleet safety instructor from Lake Jackson, Texas. While some truckers and officials note that the rule makes it possible for a well-managed schedule to yield more driving hours as well as plenty of rest, others argue that time management in the hands of carriers and shippers under the new rule could be bad news for owner-operators and company drivers.

The new rule, which was announced in April and becomes effective Jan. 4, allows an extra hour of driving per shift and requires two extra hours of rest. A driver who drives 11 hours a day and logs three hours on-duty, non-driving, could drive as many as 77 hours in eight days, for a total of 98 hours logged on-duty. That’s because after 70 hours on duty (over five days), he can take 34 hours off, restart his eight-day week, and work another 28 hours.

Under the current rule, a driver can log only 70 on-duty hours in eight days legally. If he logs at least three non-driving, on-duty hours for every 10 driven – similar to the pattern encouraged under the new rule – the maximum number of hours he can drive is 55. Even under the most efficient circumstances, where non-driving, on-duty time required only pretrip inspection and log book recording, a driver could never legally drive beyond 70 hours in eight days.

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Under the current rule, an owner-operator grossing $1 per mile, not compensated for detainment or loading, logging 13 on-duty hours per cycle and averaging 60 mph could bring in $3,300 in revenue for an eight-day period (55 driving hours x 60 mph x $1 = $3,300). Under the new rule, a driver could accrue as much as $4,620 in eight days if he averaged the same pay and the same speed – $1,320 more than under the old rule.

In the real world, driving conditions, freight availability and loading schedules rarely allow owner-operators to reap the maximum benefits under the current rule or the new one. Nevertheless, the extra time behind the wheel allowed by the new rule can translate directly to revenue.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also concludes that busy drivers will be able to earn more. In an analysis that included regional and long-haul operations as well as various work intensity levels, FMCSA says an owner-operator under the new rule could take home $1,300 (before taxes but after other expenses) more annually than under the current rule.

Despite that estimate and the extra hours, many drivers say the rule is unlikely to boost income. Fred Hilkey, an owner-operator in Jacksonville, Ore., says it would help only if he chose to run harder. Hilkey, leased to Nickel Plate Express in Eugene, Ore., rarely drives more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period. “I’ve had to maybe twice in the last six months,” he says. Since he’s typically home every weekend, Hilkey doubts he’ll be able to take advantage of the 34-hour reset. The extra driving hour might help in cases where, in the past, he’s had to shut down not far from home because he was out of hours, he says.

Others say the new rule will allow fleets to push drivers harder and, in the case of company drivers, may result in lower pay. “The 11th hour will benefit carriers, but it won’t benefit drivers,” says Paul Sasso, a 30-year driving veteran from Edgewater, Fla. “It allows you to work longer and work harder but burn out faster.”

The extra driving hours will give carriers the ability to better service their customers, especially in just-in-time delivery situations. But drivers will have to work longer hours, Sasso says, prompting many to leave the industry. “Sure, he’ll make more money but he’ll tire quicker. He’ll burn out. I would have been happy if they had left (the rule) alone and upped the ante or given us a 3 percent cost-of-living raise.”

Although the option to start a new week after taking 34 consecutive hours off may allow drivers to run more miles, carriers could require unpaid layovers in places far from home. If a carrier sends a Texas-based driver to Los Angeles, for example, to drop a load and pickup a backhaul, he could end up cooling his heels in California for 34 hours to reset his hours. Knowing that fleets have an incentive to strand a driver for 34 hours in order to maximize his productivity is frightening, but probably realistic, drivers say.

Sasso also worries that carriers and shippers will hold per-mile rates level, or even lower them, then present the extra miles as “a phony pay increase.” Sasso, who drives for an owner-operator, foresees a scenario where drivers with 10-hour runs – five out and five back or 10 out and 10 back – will be asked to make those runs in 11 hours, with carriers pocketing the savings in fuel efficiency that accompany slower driving. “I’d rather get paid more per mile than get more miles,” Sasso says.

While such scenarios may hurt company drivers or truckers under strict leases, owner-operators with more control of their speed could benefit by slowing down and increasing miles per gallon. Owner-operators who learn to take advantage of the new rule can earn more money but also sleep more regular hours, says former owner-operator McFarlin.

“You can stay busy if you have the loads on both ends waiting for you,” he says. “The guys out there seem to think the laws are built to hinder them rather than help them. But if you use your hours properly and manage them, you’re not going to be tired.”

Driver Tim Begle of Dale, Ind., says the extra hour driving really won’t help many drivers. But he’s more concerned about having to rest for two extra hours a day. “They’ve added to my boredom time,” Begle says. “My general rule is that free time is home time. Some people may like this extra time. But not people who are at home every weekend.”

The extra two hours of rest per shift means more time at truck stops, converted weigh stations, rest areas and on-ramps. This could increase parking problems in parts of the country that already have difficulty accommodating truckers who need rest. Truckers who have a tendency to spend too much at truck stops will have more time under the new rule to empty their wallets.

McFarlin thinks carriers who take advantage of drivers under the new rule will lose through high turnover and, ultimately, lower productivity. “It’ll hurt the fleet,” he says. Owner-operator Hilkey agrees that some carriers might push drivers under the new rule, “but not the carrier I am leased to.”

For many fleets, it’s still too early to tell how their operations will be affected by the new rule. Elaine Briles, director of safety, compliance and fleet services for Dart Transit’s Texas Operating Center in Dallas, says she logged several current loads of a large customer under the new rule to study its impact. “With most of our loads, the length of haul is not over 700 or 800 miles,” she says. “The rule won’t make a huge difference on the initial load.”

But Briles thinks the rule could affect loads down the line by changing pickup and delivery times. “All things being equal, a driver could pick up a load as scheduled and make delivery as scheduled,” she says. “There will be a difference where you string those loads together – a domino effect. We have not figured out what that will be yet.”

Many owner-operators, too, will have to work under the rule for a while to see exactly how it affects their operations. “There is an extra hour a day to drive,” Briles says, “but when you take into account the 10-hour break, the jury is still out.”


THE NEW RULE. A driver can work only 14 consecutive hours before taking 10 off. Whether loading or driving or both, a driver must take 10 consecutive hours off once the 14th hour after starting a shift ends. Even off-duty time – eating, washing a truck or making a phone call – counts towards the 14 consecutive hours.

For example, if a driver begins waiting for a load at 4 a.m., logs three hours loading, performing a pretrip and catching up on his logs, then drives five hours before dining for an hour, the clock is still running: three hours non-driving on-duty, five hours driving, plus one hour off-duty, for a total of nine hours. The driver can drive another five hours, but won’t be able to take advantage of the full 11-hour driving shift because 14 consecutive hours have been used. At 6 p.m., he must shut down for 10 hours.

THE EXCEPTION. The new rule still allows a driver to split his off time in a sleeper birth. It works exactly the same as the current rule except the hours are different, according to FMCSA: “Drivers may accumulate the equivalent of 10 consecutive hours off-duty by taking two periods of rest in the sleeper berth, provided:

  • Neither period is less than two hours.
  • Driving time in the period immediately before and after each rest period when added together does not exceed 11 hours.
  • The on-duty time in the period immediately before and after each rest period when added together does not include any driving after the 14th hour.”


    Following are edited excerpts from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s list of frequently asked questions. To read the full list, go to www.fmcsa.dot.gov and click on the revised hours-of-service link.

    Q. Are there exceptions to the hours-of-service rule?
    A. Yes. For example, vehicles used in oil-field operations, ground water well-drilling operations, utility service and transporting construction materials and equipment retain the current 24-hour restart provision. Agricultural operations retain their current exemption from driving time requirements in the planting and harvesting season in each state, as determined by the state. The adverse weather exception permits a driver to exceed the current 10-hour driving limit by no more than 2 hours. The new rule permits a driver to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by 2 hours. The adverse weather exception does not permit a driver to exceed the 14-consecutive-
    hour limit.

    Q. Are electronic onboard recorders required?
    A. No. FMCSA plans expanded research on recorders.

    Q. Will waiting time in line at a terminal, plant, or port, be considered off-duty or on-duty, not driving?
    A. Waiting time is considered on-duty, non-driving.

    Q. Do the new regulations apply to Mexican and Canadian drivers?
    A. Yes.

    Q. If a carrier allows a driver to log mealtime as off-duty time, does that permit a driver to extend the 14-hour on-duty period?
    A. No. Off-duty breaks during the day do not extend the workday to permit a driver to drive after the 14th consecutive hour on-duty. However, time logged as off-duty is not counted in calculating a driver’s 60/70-hour, on-duty period.

    Q. Does 34 consecutive hours off-duty immediately restart the calculation of 60/70-hour, on-duty period?
    A. Yes.

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