To say that commercial truck drivers put in irregular hours would be quite the understatement. Hauling loads across the country requires a work schedule that looks quite different from the 40-hour, 8-to-5 schedule of many workers across industries. Road fatigue is also a real consequence of driving for several hours, which is true for those driving for leisure as well as work. For those wondering how many hours can a truck driver drive safely, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has strict rules to avoid overwork and fatigue.

Exploring a Driver’s Schedule

The DOT uses two terms to describe a truck driver’s schedule:

  • Work period: This is analogous to a workweek schedule. A work period is usually seven days wherein a driver can work up to 60 hours. There must be a minimum of 34 consecutive hours between work periods.
  • Duty period: Similar to a workday, this period of time is 14 hours wherein a driver can work up to 11 hours. A 30-minute break is required within the first 8 hours of a duty period.

Both work and duty periods strictly refer to the time that an operator is driving. They do not include activities such as refueling or loading/unloading.

Considering the Penalties

Adherence to these DOT rules is mandatory. Penalties include fines, revocation of driving privileges and docked safety ratings for the carrier, all of which can affect a driver’s bottom line. It’s important for you to know what the law says, and which exemptions, if available, may apply.

Understanding the Difference Between Work and Duty Periods