What is the “Hours of Service” Rule for Truck Drivers?

Commercial truck drivers are required to comply with Georgia state and federal laws to ensure the safety of other motorists on the roads. Among the many rules that truck drivers must follow, one important law for semi drivers is the “hours of service” rule. This rule restricts the amount of time that a driver can operate a vehicle before taking a break.

Big rig driver fatigue is one of the primary causes of truck accidents. Up to 13% of commercial truck drivers are fatigued at the time of a crash, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA says that truck driver fatigue can result from inadequate or poor sleep, lengthy hours of work, physical or mental exertion, and strenuous activities. To help combat truck driver fatigue, the government enacted the Hours of Service Rule. Having a knowledgeable Atlanta accident lawyer Atlanta residents have hired in many cases who knows the FMCSA rules can make a huge difference in a case.

What Is the Hours of Service Rule?

The FMCSA created the Hours of Service Rule to limit the amount of time a semi driver can operate an 18-wheeler during a single shift. The rule is made up of several regulations that say the way in which a semi driver can spend his or her shift. The rule includes the following:

The Number of Hours Driving in One Week.

Truck drivers are limited to working 60 hours in a consecutive seven-day period or 70 hours in an eight-day period.

The Number of Hours Driving in a Single Day

Drivers transporting property can only drive 11 hours after having 10 consecutive hours off duty. Those drivers transporting passengers are restricted to drive 10 hours after having eight consecutive hours off duty. Also, truck drivers can’t drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. And off-duty time doesn’t extend the 14-hour period.

Required Breaks

Semi drivers must take a break for at least 30 minutes after driving for eight consecutive hours. This break can be satisfied by any non-driving period of 30 consecutive minutes, such as on-duty not driving, off-duty, sleeper berth, or any combination of these that are taken consecutively.

What If a Semi Driver Violates the Hours of Service Rule?

If a semi driver violates the hours of service rule, there are several possible serious consequences for the driver and the trucking company. A trucking company that permits, encourages, or enforces semi drivers to violate the hours of service rule may also face serious federal penalties. The penalties include the following:

  • The driver is prohibited from operating a commercial vehicle until he or she has accumulated enough break time to be in compliance with the rules;
  • Truck drivers and trucking companies that violate the hours of service rule may be fined between $1,200 and $14,700 per violation, depending on the severity of the offense; and
  • The trucking company’s safety rating may be reduced if there is a pattern of hours of service rule violations.

In addition, there are a number of parties that may be held responsible for an hours of service rule violation—primarily, it’s the truck’s driver and the trucking company that employs the driver.


“Hours of service” is the maximum amount of time drivers are allowed to be on duty including driving time. The rule states the number and length of rest periods to help keep semi drivers awake and alert.

The hours of service rule was created by the federal government to reduce the risk of truck accidents caused by driver fatigue, which frequently happens when big rig drivers are pressured to meet tight or unrealistic deadlines. This can cause semi drivers to spend an unsafe amount of time operating an 18-wheeler.

Semi trucks traveled 304.9 billion miles in 2018. And some truck drivers drive too much or are pressured by their employer to exceed their hours of service. All of those hours on the road mean you’re at a greater risk for an accident involving tractor-trailer, which can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Because of this, the impact of a semi-truck is much greater than that of a passenger vehicle. There will be more damage to the vehicle involved, as well as serious injuries.

If you or a family member has been injured in a tractor-trailer accident, contact experienced Atlanta truck accident lawyers at Tobin Injury Law. We treat every case, regardless of size, as if it is our most important case. Contact us today!