How Tighter HOS Regulations Affect Smaller Carriers

HOS Regulations

Federal transportation regulations have significantly changed over the past 50-years. While it was common for truckers to drive 7-days per week, it carried one glaring issue. When you have drivers hauling freight over thousands of miles, it can lead to fatigue-related accidents. Concerns for this grew at the turn of the century and new federal regulations were put into place.

The most important of these regulations is the Hours of Service guidelines. These regulations have since made a dramatic impact on carrier availability, flexibility, and on-time delivery. 

But for smaller transportation companies, these strict regulations can be devastating to the business. That’s what we’re discussing today!

In this blog post, we will explain the current HOS regulations and what is being proposed by the USDOT as of recent.


Exploring the Current HOS Regulations

The ELD mandate is a regulation focused on installing monitoring software and equipment for LTL, FTL, and other commercial fleets.

The information that the ELD mandate tracks is based on Hour of Service rules as set forth and approved by the US Department of Transportation.


The following rules are current and follow a few important criteria standards for service...

  • Limit of 70 on-road hours per week for all drivers. Prior to July 2013, professional truck drivers could work up to 82 hours per week. The regulation reduced their on-road availability by 12 hours per week. 
  • Professional truck drivers not permitted to operate their vehicles after 8 straight hours. In those 8 hours they must take a 30-minute break.
  • Total of 11 commercial vehicle operation hours per day. This applies to over the road, LTL, FTL, bus drivers, or any DOT certified or CDL licensed driver. 
  • Carriers found permitting drivers to exceed the 11 hours per day driving limit are subject to fines up to $11,000 per offense. Drivers subject to penalties up to $2750 per offense.
  • Commercial drivers limited to 14 hours of on-duty scheduling. This includes any time for pre and post-trip inspections, waiting for deliveries or pickups, or other non-over the road activities. 


For a full list of the regulations, check out this link.


Proposed New Regulations

In March of 2019, The United States Department of Transportation secretary submitted to the White House a few amendments to the hours of service requirements, that may reduce some of the headaches that smaller carriers deal with on a daily and weekly basis. 


Noted below are a few of the recommendations as put forth by the USDOT transportation secretary. 

  • Considering expanding the current 100-mile short-haul exemption from 12 to 14 hours on duty regulation. This would match the current standards set forth with long-haul transportation drivers. 
  • Potentially extending the 14 hours on-duty limitation for all truck or commercial drivers by 2 hours. Only applicable for drivers encountering poor driving conditions resulting in termination of on-road services.
  • Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break period for professional drivers after 8 hours of continuous service. 
  • Reinstating an option for splitting up the 10 hours off duty rest break for drivers who operate equipment with sleeper compartments. 


The suggested changes would also provide carriers with additional flexibility to permit drivers to rest during inclement weather conditions. This may reduce the potential of tragic accidents due to poor driving visibility or bad road conditions. 

These pending regulatory changes reach final approval or disapproval before the end of 2019. If accepted, smaller carriers and independent owner-operators may have an opportunity to compete on a more level playing field. In the end, consumers may benefit from reduced shipping rates due to more competition.

To learn more about the impact of HOS regulations, reach out to the Redwood Logistics team!