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Raising the Standards of the Trucking Industry

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FMCSA Hours of Service Compared to Other Countries


By:  Allen Smith

Within the last three and a half years, the U. S. trucking industry has seen the most expensive regulatory action in decades, imposing $46 billion in annual costs.  Current discussion on mandating EOBR’s on all trucks would add another $2 billion to the figure.

There are around 500,000 trucking companies in the United States, down from 1.2 million from 2003.  Out of these 500,000 approximately 80% operate 20 trucks or less.

These smaller companies, the true backbone of an industrialized nation, along with independent and owner operators are literally in a fight for survival against over-regulation. Regulations that always seem to come tagged with the term, “safety.”

The most vital of regulations for the professional truck driver are the hours of service (HOS) rule.  These rules determine how long a driver can drive and work, thus having the largest impact on their income potential.  The newest change in the HOS rule which will come into compliance on July 1st, 2013 will limit a driver’s work week to 70 hours, not allow the driver to operate the CMV after working eight hours until a rest break of at least 30 minutes has been taken and drivers who maximize their 70 hour work week will be required to take at least two rest periods between the hours of 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. home terminal time.  This will eliminate the current usage of the 34 hour restart provision where the driver will be allowed to use the provision only once during a seven day period.

This addition of more downtime for drivers, along with the push to get as many miles and payable work in as possible within 14 hours will ultimately lead to less safety.  The 14 hour rule, in my opinion, is the worst and most unsafe regulation to ever hit the professional truck driver.  Many motor carriers continue to push their drivers to the maximum 14 hours with the maximum workload possible.  Bottom line . . . the oncoming new HOS rules, while ignoring the fact of how companies push their drivers, is a recipe for disaster.

Most countries have hours of service rules imposed for truck drivers, specifically industrialized nations such as the United States, Canada, Australia and countries of the European Union.

So, how does the FMCSA hours of service rule for truckers compare with the HOS rule of other countries?  

Let’s take a look . . .





  • Drivers must rest for 30 minutes every 5 hours and stop for 10 hours of sleep for every 14 hours of work (includes driving and non-driving duties).
  • After 72 working hours (not including time spent resting or sleeping) a driver must spend 24 hours away from the CMV.






There are two sets of hours of service rules, one for above 60th parallel north, and one for below.

  • Below latitude 60 degrees drivers are limited to 14 hours on duty in any 24 hour period.
  • 14 hours includes a maximum of 13 hours driving time. Rest periods are 8 consecutive hours in a 24 hour period, as well as an additional 2 hour period of rest that must not be taken in less than 30 minute blocks.
  • Drivers operate on a concept of “cycles.”
  • Cycle 1 is 70 hours in a 7 day period, and cycle 2 is 120 hours in a 14 day period.
  • A driver who uses cycle 1 must take off 36 hours at the end of the cycle before being allowed to restart the cycle again.
  • Cycle 2 is 72 hours off duty before being allowed to start again.

Above 60th parallel north

  •  Because of this area being so remote, north of the 60th parallel, Canadian hours of service rules are basically nonexistent.




European Union


  • Non-stop driving time may not exceed 4.5 hours.
  • After 4.5 hours of driving the driver must take a break period of at least 45 minutes.
  • Time can be split into 2 breaks, the first being at least 15 minutes, and the second being at least 30 minutes.
  • Daily driving time shall not exceed 9 hours.
  • Daily driving time may be extended to at most, 10 hours, but not more than twice during the week.
  • Weekly driving time may not exceed 56 hours.
  • Driver cannot exceed 90 hours driving in a two week period.
  • Within each period of 24 hours after the end of the previous daily rest period or weekly rest period, a driver must take a new daily rest period.






Where the U. S. rules are established through the governmental body of the FMCSA, the rules for truck drivers in Mexico are established by a Constitutional mandate, meaning that it falls under the country’s labor laws.

  • A maximum work week of 48 hours without going into overtime. (Average work week of 40 to 45 hours).
  • Entitled to one day of rest with full pay, for every 6 days of work.
  • 3 work shifts – Day shift ( 8 hours ), Night shift ( 7 hours ) and Mixed shift ( 7 1/2 hours ).
  • Hours worked over these periods are considered overtime and pay is doubled, but can not exceed 9 hours per week.





The United States

  • 11-Hour Driving Limit
    May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • 14-Hour Limit
    May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
  • 60/70-Hour On-Duty Limit
    May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
  • Sleeper Berth Provision
    Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.

Changes to HOS rule, July 1st, 2013:

  • 34-hour restarts – Must include two periods between 1 a.m.- 5 a.m. home terminal time and may only be used once per week.
  • Rest breaks – May drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since end of driver’s last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes.
  • On-duty time – Does not include any time resting in a parked vehicle. In a moving property-carrying CMV, does not include up to 2 hours in passenger seat immediately before or after 8 consecutive hours in sleeper-berth.
  • Penalties – Driving (or allowing a driver to drive) 3 or more hours beyond the driving-time limit may be considered an egregious violation and subject to the maximum civil penalties.


As the U. S. trucking industry continues to be bombarded with “safety regulations”, the true solution to the issue is not more regulations, but control of the real problem.  As truck driver fatigue is touted as a major cause of truck accidents, coupled with other variables such as sleep apnea, the factual causes of driver fatigue are ignored.

Delaying drivers at the shipper and receiver docks, dispatchers pushing drivers beyond the legal hours of service, lack of safe parking and rest areas, anti-idling laws and failure to provide an APU system for the driver, lack of home time and keeping drivers out for months at a time . . . just a few of many real causes of driver fatigue and safety factors.

The problem with truck driver fatigue and safety issues will only be resolved when the FMCSA takes a hard look at the practices of shippers and receivers and those motor carriers that continue to push the professional CMV driver above and beyond human capabilities.

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© 2012, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.

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By: Allen Smith

Allen Smith is a 37 year veteran who started at an early age in a household goods family moving business. He began driving straight trucks in 1977 and moved to the big rigs in 1982. His experience within the industry includes; owner operator, company driver, operations manager, and owner of a long distance HHG moving business, taking many of the long haul moves himself when needed. Allen Smith, a truck driver advocate who is driven by the desire to help others succeed within an industry where injustice, unrewarded sacrifice, and lack of respect and recognition exists. Allen and his wife Donna are hosts of Truth About Trucking ”Live” on Blog Talk Radio. Other websites include AskTheTrucker, TruckingSocialMedia, NorthAmericanTruckingALerts, TruthAboutTrucking, and many Social Media websites. In 2011 Allen and Donna hosted the first Truck Driver Social Media Convention, designed to create unity and solutions for the trucking industry. This is now being extended through the North American Trucking Alerts network as those within the industry join forces for the betterment of the industry. Allen strongly supports other industry advocates who are also stepping up to the plate to help those who share honesty, guidance and direction. He believes that all those involved in trucking need to be accountable for their part within the industry, including drivers, carriers, brokers, shippers, receivers, etc… The list of supporters and likeminded people grow daily, networking together and sharing thoughts and ideas for the betterment of trucking. He has coined the popular phrase "Raising the standards of the trucking industry"

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