• July 31, 2023

    How to Make the Most of Your Driving Hours

    It’s important to remember that DOT Hours of Service rules were created in an attempt to keep drivers safe, alert, and well-rested. These regulations were not designed to get the money out of your pocket but to prioritize drivers’ safety and prevent fatigue-related accidents. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand that by breaking those rules, you not only put your company and your CDL at a huge risk, but you also endanger your own safety and the safety of other road users.

    Let’s quickly revise DOT Hours of Service regulations for property-carrying drivers:

    - 11-Hour Driving Limit - Drivers can operate their vehicles for a maximum of 11 hours within a 14-hour on-duty period, provided they have taken 10 consecutive hours off duty.

    - 14-Hour Limit - Drivers are prohibited from driving past the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following a 10-hour off-duty period.

    - 30-Minute Driving Break Rule - To ensure driver safety, drivers must take a 30-minute break after driving continuously for 8 hours.

    - 60/70-Hour Limit - To prevent driver fatigue, this rule prohibits drivers from driving after working for 60/70 hours over a period of 7/8 consecutive days. However, drivers can work again after taking at least 34 hours off duty.

    - Split Sleeper Provision - The sleeper berth provision allows drivers to split their required 10-hour off-duty period into two qualifying periods (one longer break, which can be either seven or eight hours long, and one shorter break, which can be two or three hours long). It is essential to note that the two periods combined should add up to 10 hours in total. When used together, neither time period counts against the maximum 14-hour driving window.

    - Adverse Driving Conditions Exception - In adverse driving conditions, such as bad weather, traffic jams caused by accidents, and icy roads, drivers are allowed to extend the 11-hour driving limit and the 14-hour on-duty limit by up to 2 hours.

    - Short-Haul Exception - The FMCSA hours of service (HOS) short-haul exemption allows certain commercial drivers to be exempt from some of the HOS rules that apply to long-haul truckers. The most important relief is that these drivers don’t have to log their hours of service with an Electronic Logging Device (ELD). These FMCSA ELD exemptions only apply to truck or bus drivers who operate within a 150-air-mile radius of their work reporting location and return to that location at the end of each duty day.

    One of the key factors that contribute to earning more money as a truck driver is efficiency, so understanding how to make the most of DOT Hours of Service can significantly boost your income. Some drivers will even risk losing their CDLs in order to arrive at their destination timely by choosing unsafe routes or violating the rules, but that’s definitely not the way to go. To get the maximum out of your driving hours, all you need is good planning, communication, and determination.


    Choose Your Route Wisely

    Plan your trip ahead by choosing the best possible route. You should try to consider factors such as traffic density, road safety, and weather conditions. To find the optimal route, it is recommended to use trusted apps instead of relying on certain car-optimized software. Such software may suggest a “quicker” path, but it could be unsafe or not suited to larger vehicles. Additionally, you can seek help from your dispatcher to assist you with this issue.

    Communication Is Key

    Effective communication with your dispatcher is crucial for making the most out of your driving hours. Dispatchers can anticipate possible detention times, identify the right routes, and locate available parking spots near your destination in advance. By keeping an open line of communication with your dispatcher, you can coordinate more efficiently and reduce delays.

    Furthermore, communicating with shippers and receivers directly can prove to be useful. For example, if you think you will be able to arrive at the shipper or receiver ahead of the appointment, try calling them in order to get loaded/unloaded earlier without unnecessary waiting.

    Plan Your Stops and Be Prepared for the Unexpected

    To maximize your earnings, it is essential that you use your time wisely. Make sure to plan your whole trip in advance, including fuel stops, lunch breaks, and other short pauses. Naturally, your plan won’t always be practical due to various factors, but if you have some kind of a predetermined schedule, it will be easier for you to adapt and overcome the possible challenges.

    Apart from making sure you aren’t late for your appointments, you should also ensure that you aren’t too early! Arriving ahead of the previously agreed time without notifying the shipper/receiver timely can also be a bad decision. For example, if you get to the receiver five hours prior to the appointment and they cannot work you in earlier, you will probably be out of driving hours by the time they finally unload your trailer.

    We especially advise you to always plan your driving day as if you have one hour less. This approach will give you enough time to react to unexpected situations, get through traffic jams, or find a spot in a packed parking lot without violating DOT Hours of Service rules. Struggling to find a parking spot minutes before the expiration of your on-duty hours can sometimes leave you with two choices - to park at an unmarked, unsafe place or violate the HOS regulations. That is a lose-lose situation, but adequate preparation can help you avoid these issues completely.

    Complete Other Tasks During the Restart

    If you manage to use your 34-hour reset wisely, you can make your whole driving week much less burdensome. The restart is the right time to check your truck and trailer for any malfunctions and get them repaired, buy necessities for the upcoming week, fuel your tank up, and recharge your own batteries. Try to complete as many tasks as possible during this period to ensure that you can drive with peace of mind, focused solely on the road ahead of you.

    Conclusion

    Earning more money while staying compliant with DOT Hours of Service rules is definitely possible. When it comes to implementing all these tips - it’s much easier said than done. However, once you get into a routine and master them, you will be able to improve your efficiency, cover more miles, save up on gas, and consequently maximize your earning potential!

    For more interesting tips, industry news, and job openings, make sure to follow our Facebook page!
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