The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) recently revised hours-of-service rules brought about a variety of speculations and questions. The rule may be a bit confusing to others. So for clarity, here are some of the commonly asked questions by drivers and owner-operators and the corresponding answers:
Question: Do oilfield drivers need the 30-minute break?
Answer: Yes. Drivers using either of the oilfield exceptions in Sec. 395.1(d) are required to comply with the 30-minute rest-break requirement. Drivers eligible for the “waiting time” exception (305.1(d)(2)) can use off-duty waiting time as their break.
Q: Do hazmat drivers need to take the mandatory break?
A: Yes. Drivers hauling hazardous materials are subject to the requirement for a mandatory 30-minute break, and it must be spent “off duty” unless transporting Division 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3 explosives. Drivers transporting these explosives must remain “on duty” at all times while “attending” the load (see Sec. 397.5), so they are allowed to show their mandatory breaks as “on duty” as long as they enter a remark on the log to designate a 30-minute period as their break. No other work (other than attending to the load) can be performed during the break. Other hazmat drivers who are required to attend their loads while operating on public highways under Sec. 397.5 must be allowed to go “off duty” for their breaks. Note that certain drives hauling radioactive materials and who are operating under contract with the Department of Energy have been given an exemption that allows them to use the exception granted to drivers transporting explosives (see Sec. 395.1(q)).
Q: If a driver won’t be driving after the 8th hour, does he or she need a break?
A: No, not under the federal HOS rules. The rules only restrict drivers from driving a property-carrying CMV after 8 hours without a break. If a driver will be working but not driving a CMV after 8 hours, then no break is required.
Q: Does a driver need a 30-minute break every 8 hours of driving?
A: The 8 hours are consecutive hours, so they include driving and all other time (including any breaks that are less than 30 minutes). The new rule says you have to stop driving CMVs once you reach 8 consecutive hours past the end of your last break of at least 30 consecutive minutes.
Q: Might some drivers need more than one break each day?
A: Yes. Drivers who work long days or who take the 30-minute break too early may need two or more breaks in one day. For example, a driver who takes the break after the first hour of the day and who has another 9 hours of driving ahead will need a second break within 8 hours after the end of the first break. The longer the work day, the more likely a second break could be needed (especially if the first break is taken too early).
Q: How do you log the 30-minute break?
A: To be counted as a valid break (for compliance with the 8-hour/30-minute rule), it must be logged "off duty" or "sleeper berth." Any time that must be logged as “on duty” based on the definition of “on duty time” in section 395.2 cannot count as a valid break (except in the case of certain drivers transporting explosives who must “attend” the cargo and can use attendance time as their break). In general, to be “off duty” the driver must be free of all obligations and responsibilities and free to leave the premises. Note that any kind of “off duty” or “sleeper berth” time will satisfy the rule. For example, a lunch break, a 10-hour break, time spent resting in a sleeper berth (even if used for the “split sleeper” option), or time spent resting in a parked vehicle will satisfy the break requirement in most cases. The key is that drivers must be relieved of all duty and responsibility and be free to walk away from the vehicle and cargo for the duration of the break.
Q: How does the 30-minute break affect the 14-hour rule?
A: The 30-minute break must be spent “off duty” and/or in a sleeper berth, but no matter how it is spent it must be counted as part of the driver’s 14-hour allowance. The driver does not get 14 hours of on-duty time in addition to the 30-minute break. It takes 30 minutes out of the driver’s 14 available hours. The breaks will not extend the 14-hour window.