In an effort to curb or eliminate accidents and fatalities caused by fatigued truckers operating big rigs, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration developed a set of rules that outlines the maximum number of hours a trucker may work each day and each week. 

Referred to as the Hours of Service rule, this rule caps the number of driving hours for property-carrying drivers as 11 per day with a required 10 hours off duty prior to the next driving shift. For passenger-carrying drivers, 10 hours per day at maximum may be spent driving after a required eight hours off duty. 

Temporary changes due to COVID-19

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government has set aside these safety rules for some truckers. The goal of this action is to prioritize delivery of certain essential supplies and items. Acting administrator Jim Mullen said, “FMCSA is providing additional regulatory relief to our nation’s commercial drivers to get critically important medical supplies, food and household goods to Americans in need.”

The declaration, issued on March 13th, offers regulatory relief for drivers who transport items such as:

  • Medical supplies or equipment needed for COVID-19 testing and treatment
  • Food and other grocery items
  • Fuel
  • Health and safety supplies, including hand sanitizer, soap, gloves, masks and more

In order to assist relief efforts, drivers who transport these critical items to medical professionals or stores in order to restock empty shelves are not subject to the hours-of-service rule for the time being. Any trucker may, at their discretion, request time off duty to rest so as to ensure safety remains a priority. The off-duty time must be at least 10 hours for property-carrying drivers and eight hours for drivers transporting passengers.