Hours of Service for Cross Border Truck Drivers: A Comprehensive Guide

A Truck Driver’s Ultimate Guide to Cross Border Hours of Service

Trucking from Canada into the US on the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge
Photo Courtesy of – https://www.flickr.com/photos/evoflash/28286674240/

Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers and fleet personnel have a huge responsibility for ensuring safety on the public roadways. For this reason, they must take adequate rest and always stay alert while driving. Long hauls and lack of sleep commonly cause driver fatigue; hence, to help reduce its risk, the hours-of-service (HOS) was born.

Commercial trucking in Canada

In Canada, most truckers operate in interstate commerce and cross the border into the United States. According to Transport Canada, around 30,000 trucks cross the Canada-U.S. border daily, transporting roughly $1 billion worth of goods and commodities. However, since the pandemic declaration in March 2020, the cross-border commercial traffic declined weekly compared to the previous year.

Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, the flow of commercial goods continues to remain relatively stable, particularly the essential items. Moreover, Canada’s food supply especially fruits and vegetables are heavily dependent on imports. Many of the fruits and vegetables that Canadians consume comes either primarily from California, U.S.A., or Mexico.

Before we delve into the hours-of-service rules a commercial truck driver must comply with when crossing the border, let us have a quick recap on HOS 101.

What is Hours-of-Service or HOS?

HOS are regulations that refer to the number of hours a commercial driver may work at a given period or cycle, as mandated by the government’s law.

The hours-of-service limits the amount of time CMV drivers spend on the road or on-duty while regulating their breaks.

It must be noted, however, that the Canadian HOS rules are different from the American HOS rules. On days and shifts where truck drivers travel on both sides of the border, they need to comply with each jurisdiction at all times.

Who must comply with the HOS?

All CMV drivers must follow the HOS regulations. By definition, a CMV is a truck or truck-tractor with an attached trailer that transports goods, property or passengers on a highway in interstate commerce and:

  • Weighs 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, including load if any, or
  • Holds a gross vehicle weight rating (weight limit set by the chassis manufacturer) or gross combination weight rating (maximum loaded weight of both the truck/tractor and trailer) of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or greater, or
  • Made intentionally to move passengers of more than 8 in number, including the driver, for compensation regardless whether there were any actual passengers, or
  • Made intentionally to move passengers of more than 15 in number, including the driver, whether there were any actual passengers and does not move them for remuneration, or
  • Carries material found to be hazardous in a quantity requiring placards

When did the HOS originate?

The HOS has been around since 1938. The first rules were enforced by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), a U.S. organization that has now been abolished.

Over the years, there have been multiple revisions to the HOS rules. Even to date, these regulations continuously update to adjust to current events and provide better flexibility for drivers.

What is the purpose of HOS?

The main goal of HOS is to prevent accident-related incidents caused by driver fatigue that occurs mostly before dawn. According to studies, the likelihood of fatigue usually happens between midnight and six o’clock in the morning. Subsequently, the risk of fatigue increases with the total length of the driving time.

With the HOS rules, the commercial driver’s number of hours on the road is capped. Therefore, it gives the driver a considerable amount of time to take breaks, eat their meals and get enough sleep before driving again.

How are the HOS tracked?

  • Electronic logbook

Electronic logbook or e-logs are accomplished by installing an app on a smart device such as a mobile phone or tablet. This method does not require an in-cab fixed device. Moreover, it leverages a driver’s mobile device to display HOS and record of duty status (RODS) information to safety inspectors.

*The e-log mobile app itself is not enough to comply with the U.S. ELD (Electronic Logging Device) mandate. There is still a need for a tamper-resistant ELD to be directly connected to the engine of the vehicle.

  • Automatic onboard recording device (AOBRD)/ ELD

While an e-log is essentially just software or a mobile app, an AOBRD/ELD is a hardware device intended to be plugged into the commercial vehicle’s engine control module (ECM) port. It then automatically captures data such as duty status, engine hours, speed, distance and driver location.

*Under the U.S. ELD Mandate effective December 16, 2019, AOBRDs are no longer allowed and should be upgraded or replaced by a certified ELD. Canada has also adopted the said ELD rules still to be implemented in June 2021, mirroring U.S. standards.

  • Paper logbook

In this traditional method, a driver keeps a logbook wherein he manually records everything by hand. Each page encompasses 24 hours log. Consequently, the driver has to make carbon copies of each page – one for him to show during inspections and one for his employer.

*Paper logbooks may still be required as a back-up in the event that the ELD malfunctions.

Who enforces the Hours-of-Service compliance?

In Canada, the individual provinces and territories made and enforce HOS rules. Unlike the U.S., Canada does not have a federal agency with regulatory control like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

In the U.S., the Department of Transportation (DOT) officers handle their respective states.

Throughout North America, approximately 13,000 commercial vehicle inspectors under the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) enforce the ELD rules.

Canadian ELD regulations

  • Data transfer
    • On-screen display
    • Printout
    • E-mail to a centralized address
    • USB 2.0
    • Bluetooth
  • Certification process

The Canadian government authorizes a third-party certification to validate the ELD solutions from providers. For a fee, the accredited organizations test and certify the ELD, ensuring it complies with technical requirements and is tamper-resistant.

  • Use during malfunction

Drivers may use paper log sheets for up to not more than 14 days in Canada until the ELD is properly repaired or replaced. If the current trip lasts longer than 14 hours, a driver may still use paper logs until he returns to the home terminal.

  • Summary of driver hours and special cases

The Canadian ELD rule must show the driver his remaining driving time before the next break. Moreover, the ELD requires to support the HOS special cases such as:

  • Off-duty deferral (Day 1 and Day 2)
  • Adverse driving conditions
  • Personal conveyance (a maximum driving distance of 75 kilometres)
  • Split sleeper berth rule
  • Driving north of the 60th parallel

American ELD regulations

  • Data transfer
    • Downloaded to the electronic record of duty status (eRODS) software
    • Web service
    • Email
    • USB
    • Bluetooth
  • Certification process

ELD providers in the U.S. self-certify to be registered on the FMCSA list. Carriers may opt for the most reliable ELD supplier they can find, as their compliance depends on it.

  • Use during malfunction

Drivers may use paper log sheets for up to not more than 8 days in the U.S. until the ELD is properly repaired or replaced.

Canadian ELD exemptions

Canada has four main ELD exemptions as listed in Canada Gazette.

CMV drivers will be exempt if they:

  • Operate under a specific permit issued
  • Have a statutory (160-kilometre radius from the home terminal) exemption
  • Operate within a rental agreement with terms below 30 days
  • Operate a vehicle that was manufactured before the model year 2000

Due to incompatibility issues, the regulations allow drivers of CMV’s manufactured before the model year 2000 to continue using paper logbooks to track driving time and on-duty hours.

American ELD exemptions

The FMCSA provides the following ELD mandate exemptions for:

  • Short-haul drivers
  • Tow-away/driveaway operations where the CMV being driven is the commodity
  • Drivers operating vehicles that are older than the model year 2000
  • Drivers that, out of 30 days, only keep logs for 8 days
  • Agricultural, farm and livestock vehicles

Canadian Hours-of-Service rules

Commercial vehicle driving across borders in awareness of HOS

Daily requirements

Daily requirements apply to a 24-hour period, commencing at midnight. Moreover, the carrier should specify if it is other than midnight.

Regular time

This includes the use of sleeper berth. Drivers are required:

  • 10 hours off-duty in a day (includes at least 8 consecutive hours and 2 additional hours that may be distributed throughout the day in sections of no less than 30 minutes each)
  • No driving beyond 13 hours within a day
  • No driving after completing 14 hours on-duty time in a day or work shift

Deferred time

Drivers may apply for deferral in the case of adverse driving conditions. These include snow, sleet, heavy fog, inclement weather, or road closures. Drivers must take note of the following:

  • The 2 additional hours off-duty time required on Day 1 can be moved to Day 2
  • Total driving time of Day 1 and 2 should be a maximum of 26 hours
  • Total off-duty time of Day 1 and 2 should be at least 20 hours (includes at least 8 consecutive hours in Day 1 and 10 consecutive hours and 2 additional hours in Day 2)

Drive time

13-HOUR DRIVING LIMIT

A truck driver may drive a maximum of 13 hours, following 8 consecutive hours off-duty.

16-HOUR RULE

A truck driver may not drive beyond the 16th consecutive hour after coming on-duty, following 10 consecutive hours off-duty. In other words, from the time he logs himself as on-duty also marks the start of his 16-hour window to complete the maximum of 13 hours of driving time.

REST BREAKS

A commercial driver may drive only if 8 hours or less have elapsed from the end of his last off-duty.

Cycle requirements

A commercial truck driver can keep up with a 7-day or 14-day cycle. The operator designates the cycle for him to follow. Each cycle has its requirements.

a. Cycle 1 (70 hours in 7 days)

  • A truck driver cannot drive if he has been on-duty for 70 hours
  • A CMV driver needs to take 36 consecutive hours off-duty to reset hours to zero or start a new cycle

b. Cycle 2 (120 hours in 14 days)

  • A truck driver cannot drive if he has been on-duty for 120 hours. A driver also cannot drive after accruing 70 hours on-duty but not taking the required 24 consecutive hours off-duty
  • A CMV driver needs to take 72 consecutive hours off-duty start a new cycle

*All drivers, regardless of their cycle, must have a period of at least 24 consecutive hours off-duty in the preceding 14 days. Drivers may only switch from cycle 1 to cycle 2 and vice-versa provided that they reset their hours to zero or start a new cycle.

RODS inspection requirement

A driver must keep in their possession their daily logs for the current day, supporting documents for the current trip, as well as daily logs in the preceding 14 days.

American Hours-of-Service rules

Truck driver hours of operation change during inclement weather

Cycle requirements

The U.S. also has 2 duty cycles:

a. 60 hours in 7 days

b. 70 hours in 8 days

The details for each cycle’s requirements will be discussed in the next few sections.

30-minute break rule

A truck driver has a window of 8 hours to log driving time after his last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes. He cannot drive again after this 8-hour window has passed unless he takes a break for 30 consecutive minutes.

This rule, however, only restricts a driver from driving.  This means that the driver can still be on-duty, performing non-driving tasks after 8 hours without taking a break.

Adverse driving conditions exception

Exceptions to the HOS rules include adverse driving conditions. Drivers may gain up to 2 hours on top of the maximum driving limit. They may extend their driving time per shift, however, the driving window remains the same.

RODS inspection requirement

A driver must keep in their possession their daily RODS for the current day as well as RODS in the preceding 7 days.

2 types of motor carriers and their corresponding Hours-of-Service requirement

Unlike in Canada, there is a difference between the maximum driving time for motor carriers transporting property and passenger-carrying vehicles in the U.S.

1. Property-carrying CMV

Drive time
11-HOUR DRIVING LIMIT

A truck driver may drive a maximum of 11 hours following 10 consecutive hours off-duty.

14-HOUR RULE

A truck driver may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on-duty, following 10 consecutive hours off-duty. Off-duty time does not give an extension to the 14-hour limit. In other words, from the time the driver logs himself as on-duty also marks the start of his 14-hour window to complete the maximum of 11 hours of driving time.

REST BREAKS

A commercial driver may drive only if 8 hours or less have elapsed from the end of his last off-duty or the end of at least a 30-minute sleeper-berth period. However, these do not apply to drivers using either of the short-haul exceptions.

60/70-hour limit in 7/8 cycle

A commercial driver may not drive after 60/70 hours on-duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may reset the cycle of the 7/8 consecutive day period provided he has taken 34 consecutive hours or more off-duty in any location. However, he must log the hours based on his home terminal’s time standard.

Sleeper berth provision

If a driver uses the sleeper berth provision, he must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, with a separate additional 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off-duty, or combination of the two.

Adverse driving conditions exception

Drivers may extend their maximum driving time from 11 hours to 13 hours, provided it stays within the 14-hour window.

2. Passenger-carrying CMV

Drive time
10-HOUR DRIVING LIMIT

A truck driver may drive a maximum of 10 hours following 8 consecutive hours off-duty.

15-HOUR LIMIT

A truck driver may not drive if he has been on-duty for 15 hours, after having 8 consecutive hours off-duty. The 15-hour limit does not change even if the driver goes off-duty. In other words, from the time he logs himself as on-duty also marks the start of his 15-hour window to complete the maximum of 10 hours of driving time.

REST BREAKS

Unfortunately, no reference can be found for rest breaks applying to passenger-carrying vehicles.

60/70-hour limit in 7/8 cycle

A commercial driver may not drive after 60/70 hours on-duty in 7/8 consecutive days. However, there is no reference with regards to options for a reset or restart.

Sleeper berth provision

If a single driver uses the sleeper berth provision, he must take at least 8 hours in the sleeper berth. Additionally, he may split the sleeper berth time into two periods, but neither period should be less than 2 hours. The same applies to team drivers, but instead of 2 hours, neither period should be less than 4 hours.

Adverse driving conditions exception

Drivers may extend their maximum driving time from 10 hours to 12 hours, provided it stays within the 15-hour window.

Changes in American Hours-of-Service rules starting September 29, 2020

  • Short-haul exception

The short-haul exception will expand the 100 air-mile radius to 150 air-mile radius. Moreover, as part of the exception, it will allow a 14-hour work shift to happen.

  • Adverse driving conditions exception

The change in the rule is it will expand the driving window by up to an additional 2 hours during adverse driving conditions.

  • 30-minute break requirement

The 30-minute break will be required after 8 hours of driving time, rather than on-duty time. Additionally, it will allow an on-duty/not driving period to qualify as the required break.

  • Sleeper berth provision

Instead of 8 hours, a driver will be allowed to meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement by spending at least 7 hours of that period in the berth plus a minimum of 2 hours off-duty spent inside or outside the berth. Also, the two periods must have a total of at least 10 hours, and that neither qualify period counts against the 14-hour driving window.

Final Word

Whichever side of the border a commercial driver may operate in, it is important for him to be in compliance with the hours-of-service rules in that area at all times. Canada and the U.S. have their own HOS regulations which can be confusing and difficult to keep up with.  The guide above summarizes most of the key concerns to consider under the Canadian and American HOS rules to help drivers easily pinpoint the similarities and differences.

Disclaimer:

The information in this article is intended for information purposes only, it does not in any way serve as professional advice. You should seek expert advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction with respect to any particular legal matter.

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