FMCSA Hours of Service Compared to Other Countries

FMCSA Hours of Service Compared to Other Countries

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% function 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 specialized truck driver are the hours of service (HOS) rule. These rules determine how long a driver can excursion and work, consequently having the largest impact on their income possible.

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 function the CMV after working eight hours until a rest break of at the minimum 30 minutes has been taken and drivers who maximize their 70 hour work week will be required to take at the minimum 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 rule to less safety. The 14 hour rule, in my opinion, is the worst and most unsafe regulation to ever hit the specialized 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?


  • 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 use 24 hours away from the CMV.


There are two sets of hours of service rules, one for above 60th similar 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, in addition as an additional 2 hour period of rest that must not be taken in less than 30 minute blocks.
  • Drivers function 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 similar north

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

European Union

  • Non-stop driving time may not go beyond 4.5 hours.
  • After 4.5 hours of driving the driver must take a break period of at the minimum 45 minutes.
  • Time can be divided into 2 breaks, the first being at the minimum 15 minutes, and the second being at the minimum 30 minutes.
  • Daily driving time shall not go beyond 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 go beyond 56 hours.
  • Driver cannot go beyond 90 hours driving in a two-week period.
  • Within each period of 24 hours after the end of the past daily rest period or weekly rest period, a driver must take a new daily rest period.


Where the U. S. rules are established by 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 complete 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 go beyond 9 hours per week.

The United States

  • 11-Hour Driving Limit
  • May excursion a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • 14-Hour Limit
  • May not excursion 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 excursion 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 the minimum 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 excursion only if 8 hours or less have passed since end of driver’s last off-duty period of at the minimum 30 minutes.
  • On-duty time – Does not include any time resting in a parked means. In a moving character-carrying CMV, does not include up to 2 hours in passenger seat closest before or after 8 consecutive hours in sleeper-berth.
  • Penalties – Driving (or allowing a driver to excursion) 3 or more hours beyond the driving-time limit may be considered an egregious violation and unprotected 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, without of safe parking and rest areas, anti-idling laws and failure to provide an APU system for the driver, without 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 specialized CMV driver above and beyond human capabilities.

leave your comment