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When are drivers eligible for a 16-hour driving window?



If you're a property-carrying motor carrier or driver, you're undoubtedly familiar with the so-called 14-hour rule, which requires commercial drivers to complete all their driving activities within the first 14 hours of first coming on duty following a 10 consecutive hour off-duty break. See 49 CFR 395.3(a)(2). It's one of the fundamental hours limitations contained within the broader hours-of-service rules in Part 395 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), along with others like the 11-hour driving limit, the 30-minute rest break requirement, and the 60/70-hour limit.


What you might not know, however, is that the regulations contain an exemption that authorizes property-carrying drivers to extend the 14-hour time window to 16 hours in limited circumstances. In fact, there are two such exemptions, both of which appear in 49 CFR 395.1. That's what we're breaking down in this article.



What drivers are eligible to extend their 14-hour limit to 16 hours?

We'll get to the two specific instances where the regulations allow drivers to extend their 14-hour window below. But first, a few important caveats: First, the particular rules we're addressing in this article apply only to property-carrying drivers. Passenger-carrying drivers are subject to different substantive HOS limits and are not authorized to utilize the 16-hour time window exceptions that we're discussing here.


Second, the rules we're discussing in this article are federal rules. As we've discussed in other articles, these rules generally apply to drivers and carriers engaged in interstate commerce. And while most states in the country have adopted virtually identical rules, you'll want to check with your state to see how they have adopted these rules if you're engaged only in intrastate commerce.


Lastly, we should point out that even though the regulations may technically allow drivers to extend their duty day by up to two hours in limited circumstances, not all motor carriers allow their drivers to take advantage of these exceptions, which is their prerogative. So if you're a commercial driver, be sure to check with your carrier before taking advantage of these exceptions.


What do the regulations mean by a time window?

One other preliminary point before we dive into the exceptions...it's important we first have a good handle on the 14-hour time window regulation and how it functions. In that regard, the 14-hour rule (49 CFR 395.3(a)(2)) says that a property-carrying driver must not drive a commercial vehicle after the 14th hour of first coming on-duty after a 10 consecutive hour off-duty break. So, in other words, when a driver first comes on-duty after a 10 consecutive hour off-duty break, he/she has 14 hours within which to finish up all of his/her driving activities for the day. At the 14th hour, the driver must cease all driving activities, but could conceivably continue working in on-duty (not driving) status, for example, at a carrier’s warehouse.


Consider this example: A commercial driver first comes on duty at 6 a.m. after a full 10 hour off-duty break. In this example, we have to calculate the driver’s 14-hour driving window from when the driver first comes on duty at 6 a.m. 14 hours from 6 a.m. is 8 p.m. This means that by 8 p.m., the driver must have completed all CMV driving activity within that 14-hour window of time from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. This 14-hour driving window is reset by an off-duty break of at least 10 hours, but is not extended by any interim off-duty breaks of less than 10 hours. The one caveat to this is the so-called split-sleeper berth exception, which we describe in another article.


14-Hour Time Window Example

For an even more in-depth breakdown of the federal HOS rules, check out our online course on the topic.


The short-haul 16-hour exception

The first exception to the 14-hour time window appears at 49 CFR 395.1(e)(2). It applies only to (1) non-CDL property-carrying drivers who (2) operate exclusively within a 150 air-mile radius of their normal work reporting location.


These so-called non-CDL short-haul drivers are normally subject to the 14-hour time window; however, the exception in 395.1(e)(2) authorizes them to extend that 14-hour work day to 16 hours up to two times per week. The full text of the rule is shown below, but the key here is that to take advantage of this exception, the driver must:


  • Be non-CDL;

  • Qualify as a short-haul driver (i.e., operate only within a 150 air-mile radius of the normal work reporting location);

  • Start and end their duty tours at the normal work reporting location;

  • and comply with the 14-hour time window for at least 5 days in each 7 consecutive-day time period; and

  • Keep time records each day, detailing their start time, end time, and total hours worked.

Non-CDL Short-Haul 16-Hour Exception

For an even more in-depth discussion of the short-haul exemptions contained within the HOS rules, check out our detailed article on the topic.


The non-short-haul 16-hour exception

We've now discussed the 16-hour exception available to property-carrying, non-CDL short-haul drivers. But what about non-short-haul drivers? Are they eligible to take advantage of a 16-hour time window? The answer is "yes," but again in limited circumstances.


Section 395.1(o) says that a property-carrying driver is "exempt from the requirements of § 395.3(a)(2) [i.e., the 14-hour time window]" if:


  1. The driver has returned to the driver's normal work reporting location and the carrier released the driver from duty at that location for the previous five duty tours the driver has worked;

  2. The driver has returned to the normal work reporting location and the carrier releases the driver from duty within 16 hours after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty; and

  3. The driver has not taken this exemption within the previous 6 consecutive days, except when the driver has begun a new 7- or 8-consecutive day period with the beginning of any off-duty period of 34 or more consecutive hours as allowed by § 395.3(c).


Put another way, a property-carrying driver is authorized to extend their 14-hour time window to 16 hours once a week (i.e., 7 consecutive days), so long as they have started and ended their last five duty tours at their normal work reporting location and they have not already exceeded the 14-hour time window within the past 6 consecutive days.


A couple of observations to keep in mind. First, this exception is only available to drivers who have started and ended their "previous five duty tours" at the same location. Drivers who are not routinely starting and ending their duty tours at the same location (e.g., carrier terminal) would be ineligible for this exception. Second, drivers who otherwise qualify for this exception can reset its availability with a 34-hour restart.


In short, the 16-hour time window exception gives carriers and drivers some flexibility to extend the 14-hour limit by up to two hours once a week. This can help in situations where drivers are detained at a shipper's or receiver's facility and where the adverse driving exception is otherwise unavailable to them. But it is limited in scope, so carriers and drivers should be careful to comply with the exception's requirements if they choose to take advantage of it.


Conclusion

The 16-hour time window exceptions contained within 49 CFR 395.1 provide property-carrying carriers and their drivers some relief to the typical 14-hour time limit. But the exceptions are not all-encompassing, so carriers and drivers must be sure they meet the applicable criteria before attempting to take advantage of the 16-hour allowances.


About Trucksafe Consulting, LLC: Trucksafe Consulting is a full-service DOT regulatory compliance consulting and training service. We help carriers develop, implement, and improve their safety programs, through personalized services, industry-leading training, and a library of educational content. Trucksafe also hosts a livestream podcast on its various social media channels called Trucksafe LIVE! to discuss hot-button issues impacting highway transportation. Trucksafe is owned and operated by Brandon Wiseman and Jerad Childress, transportation attorneys who've assisted some of the nation’s leading fleets to develop and maintain cutting-edge safety programs. You can learn more about Trucksafe online at www.trucksafe.com and by following Trucksafe on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Or subscribe to Trucksafe's newsletter for the latest highway transportation news & analysis.

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