What Are Hours of Service (HOS) & Why Are They Important?

The simple fact is good drivers become bad drivers if they work while tired—even if they’re the most talented or experienced person on your team. For this reason, drivers must stick to their Hours of Service (HOS) guidelines to avoid overworking and endangering themselves and others on the road.

Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) automatically record your drivers’ Hours of Service and making reports easily available to fleet managers.

Although these devices have been around for years, it wasn’t until 2019 that all commercial vehicles had to legally switch from AOBRDs to ELDs in the US. ELDs are now required in Canada, with the Canadian mandate now effective as of June 12, 2021, stating that anyone currently required to maintain a daily paper log must switch to electronic logging devices. Here is how ELDs will be managed differently in Canada.

With these ELD mandates in full force, it’s the perfect time to dive into why the HOS rules are so important to both carriers and truck drivers alike.

What is the HOS Final Rule?

On June 1, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revised HOS regulations. The new rules came into effect on September 29, 2020—and all motor carriers must now comply with them.

The main changes include exceptions for adverse weather conditions and short-haul journeys and new rules surrounding break requirements and sleeper berth provisions.

Hours of Service regulation revisions

Image Source

Am I Subject to HOS Rules?

If your fleet has Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) in the U.S., then the answer is likely a resounding ‘yes’—Hours of Service rules apply. You’re included in the regulations if your vehicle meets the following conditions:

  • It weighs 10,001 pounds or more—or it has a gross weight rating or gross combination weight of 10,001 pounds or more. You’ll usually find this information in the vehicle manual or on a metal plate on the inside of the door jamb.
  • It’s designed to carry 16 or more passengers, including the driver, not for compensation—or 9 passengers or more, including the driver, for compensation.
  • It transports any form of hazardous material that requires a placard.

The Hours of Service regulations are specific and inflexible, so they should be strictly adhered to or face hefty penalties. Electronic logging can help you here: rather than struggling with work paper logs, spreadsheets, and word-of-mouth information from the driver, ELDs are engine-connected and automatically record all needed information, displaying it on the dedicated app. It’s easy, accurate, and requires no manual data entry.

If stopped at roadside by the Department of Transportation (DOT), drivers can present their digital hours-of-service logs to the inspector through their mobile devices.

Truck driver looking at his mobile device and hours of service.-1BigRoad ELD app display

Are There HOS Exemptions?

There are a couple of HOS exemptions. Those who drive for government agencies or drivers who are transporting personal property are exempt.

Vehicles operating only on private roads or roads restricted to the public are not considered CMVs, so HOS rules don’t apply to them either. It’s always a good idea to check the FMCSA website regularly to see if there have been any updates.

What Are the Penalties and Costs for Not Following HOS?

If an enforcement authority finds you violating the regulations, they could stop you from using the involved vehicle, prevent the driver from working, shut you down, or fine you.

A Lower CSA Score

The Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) score is a program set up by the FMCSA. The higher the score, the more likely the company will be involved in an accident. HOS violations will raise your score, and if it’s too high, you will incur higher insurance premiums and risk turning away prospective clients. So, the lower the score, the better.


The FMCSA can dish out penalties to both drivers and carriers. These fines range from $1,000 to $16,000 per violation. Fines can exceed $75,000 if the violation involves hazardous materials.

Driver Placed Out of Service

If you’re in breach of the rules, the involved vehicle could be ordered to remain out of use while the driver accumulates approximately 10-30 hours of off-duty time to be back in compliance. The length of time usually ranges between 10 and 34 hours. It’s not a fine, but this will affect your bottom line.

Danger to Driver Safety

ELDs automatically track HOS, making it easier for teams to keep an eye on fatigue that may lead to accidents. Adding video dash camera solutions, like Fleet Complete’s Vision, fleet managers and drivers can further reduce risks on the road by recording dangerous driver behavior and providing coaching if necessary.

Stats on driving while feeling drowsy.Image Source

How to Stay Compliant

As with most things, it’s better to be proactive than reactive. With that in mind, the best way to fully ensure you understand HOS rules is by visiting the FMCSA website. HOS is the law—and a full understanding of how to follow the rules is necessary to pass inspections and ensure you are compliant.

Electronic logging devices are here to stay and are the best way to remain compliant. All you need to do is read up on the rules and make sure your drivers are paying attention to alerts and taking breaks when necessary.

Ask our ELD expert, Marc Moncion, any questions you may have around fleet safety, compliance, DOT audits, roadside inspections, CSA scores, or best practices! Or follow his blog on our website.

“…compared to outdated pen-and-paper methods of tracking driver hours, this modern-day technology is more accurate, easier to enforce, more difficult to falsify, and will ultimately save lives,” said Jeremy Kirkpatrick, Vice President of Advocacy Communications for American Trucking Associations, in a Changing America interview.

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