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How Truckers Use Their 30-Minute Mandatory Break Effectively

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As of December 2011, the FMCA mandates that all Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers must take a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving on duty. The Electronic Logging Device in their vehicle (ELD) will monitor the breaks and record the vehicle’s movements as running or stopped. There is no general wiggle room regarding the need for these breaks immediately after 8 hours of driving, though the break can be taken earlier, with up to 8 hours of driving occurring afterward.

Possible Truckers Issues with the 30-Minute Break Rule

The trouble with taking an early break for truckers that have more than 11 hours of driving ahead of them, is that after the next eight hours, they will be forced to take an additional 30-minute break. For drivers who make their money by the miles, they want to make full use of every minute they have available of the 11 hours they can drive as well as the 14 hours per day they can work in total, including driving. Generally, truck drivers try to avoid taking more than one 30-minute break.

Built into a 24-hour day, after the 14 allowed work hours, there are 10 hours of break left in the day. Additionally, with the 30-minute break rule, the effective work day is reduced to only 13.5 hours. If a driver has a very long drive that effectively takes two days, they might want to substitute their second 30-minute break with a 2 to 4-hour sleep time in their truck berth, which can be counted toward their total 10 hours per 24 hours. This way, they can drive another 8 hours afterward, and possibly avoid an additional 30-minute break and consecutive 10-hour rest afterward. This allows the driver to manage getting the maximum miles of driving in while still getting the off-duty breaks and rest time required by the Hours of Service (HOS) rules. This is often known as taking “split-berth” break time.

No On-Duty Activities Allowed

They most important thing to remember to avoid violating the HOS rules for breaks, is that during said break time, the driver must be 100% off duty. This means whatever activities they participate in cannot have anything to do with their job. Eating a meal and sleeping are counted as off duty. Pumping gas, filling out work forms, loading and unloading are not considered off duty. Before the mandate, truckers often used the time while others were loading or unloading their cargo for sleep time. With this mandate, even if they sleep, this is considered part of their work day and counts toward the 14 (13.5) hours workday limit. It’s important to be clear regarding what is and isn’t considered “on duty” to avoid being in violation.

Let us know if you need more information about HOS requirements.

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