DOT Hours of Service Explained: HOS + ELD’s


This blog post focuses on the DOT Hours of Service rules, for the U.S. 

NOTE: This article is meant to provide a general overview of Hours of Service and the rules and regulations related to the topic at hand. 

  • None of this information is intended as legal advice.
  • Check with your local DOT office to ensure that you fully understand DOT Hours of Service and how they apply to your ELD system of choice. 
  • Neither Smart Trucking nor Fleet Nav Systems can be held responsible for incorrect use of your ELD system or your interpretation of the information below.

What Are DOT Hours of Service? (HOS)

Chances are if you’ve been in the trucking industry for even just a little while, you’ve heard of Hours of Service (HOS).

We’re going to cover the basics of HOS regulations.

This will  give you a practical overview of how they work. This also cuts through some of the “alphabet soup” that comes along with these rules (you know what I’m talking about: ELD, AOBRD, EOBR, FMCSA, DOT, RODS, etc.). 

So, let’s get right into it…

What is the Purpose of DOT Hours of Service Regulations?

The point of the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations is to keep tired drivers off the road.

(Whether these rules do their job or not is up for debate, but the fact is that it looks like they are here to stay.  Since each driver is legally responsible for his own logs, it is worth brushing up on the rules to remain compliant and keep your compliance, safety, and accountability (CSA) scores up.)

These rules cap the number of hours a driver can be on the road in any given duty cycle so that–in theory–tired drivers are given enough time to rest, eat, sleep, and otherwise be refreshed before they get back on the road.

History of DOT Hours of Service 

The DOT Hours of Service (HOS) has been around for a long time.  Since 1938, actually.

There have been multiple versions of these rules over the years, but the ones in effect today were finalized in 2013.

Although they have been regulated by other agencies in the past, the HOS rules are currently mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency within the United States Department of Transportation (DOT or USDOT).

Related > 7 Things You Need To Know About Your First Year as a New Truck Driver

AOBRDs, Electronic Logging Devices, and How they Relate to DOT Hours of Service


Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs) are essentially any log-recording device that does not meet the US standard for an Electronic Logging Device (ELD).

AOBRD’s have been around since the 1980s and were grandfathered into the December 18, 2017, ELD mandate for the next two years.  On December 16, 2019, AOBRDs will no longer be compliant and must be replaced with ELDs for you to remain compliant.


Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) are digital log-recording devices that automatically capture your D (Drive) statuses.

They do a whole bunch of other things too. They allow you to electronically transfer your logs during an inspection) to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) 12/18/17 ELD mandate.

ELD Equipment

And, Why Not?  Let’s Cover EOBRs Here, Too…

Another term that you may have heard thrown around is “EOBR”.  An EOBR is simply an Electronic On-Board Recorder. Because of a “change of terminology” this acronym is not used within the US Hours of Service law.

Am I Required to Use an Electronic Logging Device?

In short, if you are required to keep Records of Duty Status (RODS), you’re probably required to have an ELD.  There are some exemptions to this for:

  • Short haul drivers
  • Drivers who keep RODS for fewer than 8 days in a 30-day period
  • Drive-away-tow-away operations (where you’re delivering the vehicle you’re driving)
  • Vehicles made before the year 2000

Read more about it on the FMCSA’s page here.

All drivers in the United States are required to follow these rules. This also includes Canadian and Mexican drivers who cross the United States border to make deliveries.

How HOS Hours Work

In this section we’ll cover the basics of HOS hours.  For this example, we’ll cover a standard day for a 60-hour/7-day or 70-hour/8-day ruleset.

Some variations of these hours are considered in the Exemptions section of this blog post, and other variations exist for different rulesets not considered in this post. 

If you have a question about your ruleset, contact your local DOT service center or field office.

The 14-Hour Window

You’ve got 24 hours in a day for:

  1. a 14-hour workday, and 
  2. a 10-hour break.

Within your 14 hour workday, you can drive for up to 11 hours.  (The extra 3 hours are for breaks, meals, showers, etc.)

Once you start your workday (ON or D status), your clock officially begins counting down and cannot be stopped.

So, your 14 hour window might look something like this:

Example: If you start your workday at 8 AM, you must have all your driving finished by 10 PM.  If you start at 8 AM and drive after 10 PM, you will be in violation.

Beyond that 14-hour window, you can still work (ON-duty time) but you can’t legally drive again until you take a 10-hour break.

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DOT Hours of Service 30-Minute Break

Depending on your ruleset, you may be required to take a 30 minute break for every 8 hours of ON duty time.

The best way to handle this is to schedule your break 6 – 8 hours into your shift.  This optimizes your time so that you only have to take one 30-minute break in your day.

If you take your break early, you may have to take two breaks.

Example: You start your workday at 9 AM, which means your 14-hour workday will end at 11 PM.  You take a 30-minute break for lunch at 12 PM. If you plan to drive after 8:30 PM, you will need to take another 30-minute break from 8:30 – 9:30 PM because you will have been ON duty for 8 hours since your last break.

If instead you wait and take your lunch break at 3 PM, you don’t have to take another break because there are fewer than 8 hours between 3:30 PM and 11:00 PM when your workday clock runs out.

There are some exceptions to these rules, which are covered in the Exemptions section of this post.

Duty Cycles

There are numerous rulesets under the HOS laws for different types of drivers. The ruleset you’re following will determine your duty cycle.

Two of the more common rulesets for property-carrying drivers are the 60-hour/7-day and 70-hour/8-day, and how their cycles work is almost identical.

  • For the 60-hour/7-day ruleset, you can have a total of 60 hours of ON-duty and DrivingTime within a 7-day period.
  • For the 70-hour/8-day ruleset, you can have a total of 70 hours of ON-duty and DrivingTime within an 8-day period.

Since the main variation between these two rulesets is the number of days in a cycle, and the 60-hour/7-day rule is probably the easiest to understand, we’ll explain a few main points about cycles in more detail using the 60-hour/7-day as our model.

The 34-Hour Restart

Once every 7 days you can perform a 34-hour restart.  This just means that you are OFF duty for a full 34 hours.  Once you have spent this time OFF, you will gain your full 60 hours back to start a new 60-hour duty cycle.

Rolling Days in a Duty Cycle

If you prefer not to take 34 hours OFF, you can use rolling days instead. 

To understand this, consider the following graph.

Let’s say it’s Saturday night, and these are the hours you’ve worked all week:

Once midnight on Sunday hits, you will gain back the hours you used the previous Sunday.  In this example, that means that you would have 8 hours back on Sunday. You would also have the 1 hour you had left on your cycle from the week before.

On Monday at midnight, you would gain 11 hours back.  On Tuesday at midnight, you would gain 5 hours back. And so on…

NOTE: Just because you gain hours back at midnight does not mean that you can begin driving again at midnight.  Let’s say you ended your shift at 8 PM on Saturday night. You would still need your full 10-hour break to be able to start driving again at 6 AM on Sunday morning.

Sample Countdown Timer with Cycle Time Left 

Duty Statuses

You’ve got four different duty statuses, logged on one of four lines in this order:

  • 1) D (Drive)
  • 2) ON
  • 3) OFF
  • 4) SB (Sleeper Berth)

RODS Graph 

D (Drive)

This status is for when you are behind the wheel driving faster than 5 MPH. So this is pretty much any occasion you’re driving.


When you are working but not behind the wheel going over 5 MPH.  So, this can be if you’re:

  • Filing paperwork
  • Loading or unloading
  • Supervising loading or unloading
  • Responsible for a load in general
  • Working at another job

These are just a few examples of what is considered ON-duty.

One of the more interesting “gotchas” for an ON-duty status is that ON is technically any time you are working.  So, if you have a side gig outside of your trucking job, any time at your other job counts as ON-duty.


This is any time you spend that you do not meet the requirements for any of the other statuses. For example, whenever you’re not ON, Driving, or in the Sleeper Berth).

SB (Sleeper Berth)

This is any period that you are in the sleeper berth.

Duty-Status Buttons in the GeoT Drive App


With ELDs we got some new exemption statuses.

You may have been able to record your personal driving on the OFF line on paper logs. Or you could consider yourself ON or OFF while in a yard. Now there’s the added data with ELDs to show whenever you’ve been driving, and you have to account for this. 

Exemption Statuses

There is one important thing to remember when applying an exemption on an ELD. You cannot apply one after the fact.

Example:  You drive on your company’s yard as “Yard Move” time, but forget to change your status to “Yard Move”.  You can’t go back and add a “YM” status to those logs. Instead you will have to annotate them to explain that they are in error.

This is the rule to help avoid cheating on logs.  Make sure you apply exemptions when you are supposed to be because a pattern of annotations explaining these kinds of mistakes may raise red flags for the officer inspecting your logs.

Yard Move (YM)

YardMove (YM) can be applied any time you’re driving off of public roads.  This exemption will keep you ON duty while you are driving over 5 MPH so you aren’t losing any of your Drive time while driving around on a company’s lot.


What a YardMove Status Looks Like in the GeoT Drive App

Personal Conveyance (PC)/Personal Use

Personal Conveyance (PC) can be applied any time you’re driving for personal reasons and not advancing the load you’re hauling.  This would be for driving to and from dinner after you’ve checked into a hotel, finding the nearest safe place to park for a break after your delivery, etc.

This was recently redefined by the FMCSA to make it a little more flexible.

No specifications have been given as to what is a “reasonable distance” traveled under PC. But you need to ensure that you annotate your logs to explain where you went under this exemption and why.

In other words, if you traveled 250 miles on PC, that could be easily seen in an audit, and you’d better have a really good reason for it!

Depending on your ELD provider’s features, your company may be able to set a maximum distance you can drive in PC on a given day.  In these cases, your ELD may switch you back into Drive automatically if you exceed the limit set by your company.

The other thing to keep in mind is that PC stops as soon as you cut the ignition on your vehicle.  So, if you drive to a restaurant in PC, turn off your vehicle and go eat a meal, and then come back to drive to your hotel for the night, you’ve gotta make sure that you put yourself back into PC before you start driving or you’ll be put into Drive status.

This could seriously impact your time if you are on a 10-hour break!

Is Bad Weather Grounds For Exemption on My Hours of Service?

This exemption extends your Drive time from 11 hours to 13 hours. This could be in such cases where you encounter weather, such as rain, snow or sleet. Or if you encountered heavy traffic conditions that were not known ahead of time.

REMINDER: This is for the US Hours of Service rules; the Adverse Weather exemptions for Canada are different.

What if I Forget to Apply an HOS Exemption on My Electronic Logging Device?

In short, don’t panic.

There is something you can do if you forgot to apply an exemption. You can simply annotate your D and ON logs to explain that you should have been in whichever exemption status you should have chosen.  (NOTE: Do not do this unless you *really* should have been in that status; if you try to cheat on your logs, this is usually pretty easy to determine based off of your GPS-location records.)

Sample Logs with Annotations in the GT Drive App

There is one downside to messing up your exemption statuses. When this happens, it may show up on your time clock. It could show you are still out of hours until you take a full 10 hour break.

In these cases, you may have to manually keep track of your hours outside of your ELD.  Depending on your ELD provider, you may have the ability to ignore erroneous logs so that your time clock isn’t messed up.

Geotab has an “Ignore” feature for logs that lets an administrator mark logs to be ignored.  The logs still show the violations (and hopefully any annotations you’ve made to explain why they shouldn’t be counted as violations), but the time clock will ignore these so that your ELD will continue to count down your hours without your having to do it manually.

Industry Exemptions

There are many different industry exemptions for DOT Hours of Service Rules.

Here we cover just a couple of the more common ones you may come across.

Short-Haul Exemptions (100 and 150 Air-Mile Radius)

Standard (100 Air-Mile Radius)

If you stay within a 100 radius of your home terminal, you are not required to run an Electronic Logging Device.  This ruleset limits you to 11 hours of driving within a 12-hour day, requires no break and no paperwork.

NOTE: If you leave the 100 radius or go over the 12-hour day, you are required to keep logs.

Non-CDL (150 Air-Mile Radius)

There is an exception if  you’re a non-CDL driver. If you stay within a 150 radius of your home terminal, you may qualify to run on this exemption.  This gives you 11 hours of driving within a 14-hour day and also requires no break or paperwork.

16-Hour Exemptions

If you’re not longhaul or over-the-road (OTR), the 16-hour exemption may be available to you.  This allows one 16-hour workday every duty cycle if you’ve started and ended your day at the same terminal for the previous 5 days.

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What’s the Takeaway Here?

DOT Hours of Service is here to stay.  Knowing the rules when it comes to HOS is important for keeping yourself compliant and on the road making money.

For further reading, check out some of these other resources:

  1. Hours of Service on Wikipedia
  3. FMCSA’s 2016 Interstate Truck Driver’s Guide to Hours of Service

About the Author – Joy B

This post was created by Joy B, Chief Engineer at Fleet Nav Systems.

She has been working with all things pertaining to the ELD mandate since at least mid-2017, and has built several training courses to help drivers and admins navigate the Geotab software for Hours of Service compliance.  

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