DOT Commercial Regulations

by Richard Rowe

When even the pocket version of a manual like the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) is over 500 pages of eight-point font, you know there's some serious legislation involved. While the federal government may not care if you make money or ever get home, it does have a vested interest in making sure you drive safely while trying.

Basic Logbook

The federal government divides your logbook into four sections: "off-duty" (basically home time), "driving" time, "sleeper berth" (off-duty time spent in the truck not driving) and the somewhat confusing "on duty, not driving." The government allows you to drive for 11 hours following 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time, eight of which must be spent in the sleeper berth. You may not drive past the 14th hour after coming on duty (logging your pre-trip inspection on the "on duty, not driving" line). These are known as the (respectively) "11-Hour," "8-Hour" and "14-Hour" rules.

Weekly Limits

Driving at your maximum 13 hour a day limit, you could easily wind up busting out 91 hour weeks for months at a time. To prevent driver burnout and promote safety, the federal government issued the "70-hour" and "34-hour restart" rule. The 70-hour rule says you cannot work more than 70 hours in any seven-day period, unless you take 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.

Pre-Trip Inspection

You are always required to do at least one pre-trip and post-trip inspection (15 minutes on the "on duty, not driving" line), intermediate inspections while fueling are encouraged. Driving lights (including brake lights and turn signals), tires and brakes are the most vital, but the engine should not be neglected. Don't forget to account for your 15-minute post-trip inspection while calculating your hours; most logbook errors are 15-minute overages on the 14-hour rule caused by ill-timed post-trip inspections.

Live Your Logbook

While logbooks seem like a mere formality, you're legally required to follow their restrictions. It's easy to "speed average" and fake your logbook, but modern truck GPS tracking almost guarantees you're going to get caught. Furthermore, the federal government can subpoena a truck's GPS records with the push of a button, so the matter is more than a professional one. Those logbook rules are optimized to protect over-ambitious drivers from themselves, so don't tempt fate by running illegally. Fines for logbook violations are incredibly steep, and charges resulting from over-hours accidents can easily land you in prison.

About the Author

Richard Rowe has been writing professionally since 2007, specializing in automotive topics. He has worked as a tractor-trailer driver and mechanic, a rigger at a fire engine factory and as a race-car driver and builder. Rowe studied engineering, philosophy and American literature at Central Florida Community College.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera American container truck on road of my trucks series image by alma_sacra from