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undefinedOne of the most stringent and scrutinized regulations in the commercial driving industry revolves around the DOT FMCSA Hours of Service (HOS) rules.

These rules are in place to ensure the safety of both drivers and the general public by preventing fatigue-related accidents. Yet, with all the details, stipulations, and potential penalties associated with HOS rules, it can be challenging for commercial drivers in California and across the country.

How Much Is the Fine for an HOS Rules Violation in CA?

Before delving into the monetary penalties, it's essential to comprehend the dual structure of HOS rules set by the DOT FMCSA. 

One is crafted for passenger or charter bus drivers, while the other is tailored for cargo carriers. There are even different standards for short-haul drivers (those who do not exceed a 150-mile radius from where they start and stop each day). 

These two categories have different regulations governing driving time, intervals between mandatory breaks, and overall working hours (which isn't necessarily driving). The nuances even delve into specifics about using "sleeper berths" and the potential of splitting that resting time.

While the penalties can vary, noncompliance with HOS rules can often be steep and crippling for a driver's career, and the carrier is not immune from FMCSA-levied civil penalties. 

How Many Total Hours Per Week Can a Driver Drive & Work?

Adherence to HOS rules is not just about daily compliance but weekly as well. A commercial driver must not exceed 60/70 hours of work over a span of 7/8 consecutive days before a 34-hour consecutive off-duty reset is required. 

This rule covers not just the driving hours but also all work-related activities. Regularly surpassing these limits places drivers and others at risk and can result in severe penalties.

The 30-Minute Mandatory Break for Truckers

Despite the lack of adequate parking spaces along many of CA’s freeways, truckers must take a mandatory 30-minute break before they reach their eighth hour on duty. To avoid noncompliance, it is recommended that drivers should start looking after six hours of driving.

“Drivers must take a 30-minute break when they have driven for a period of 8 cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption. The break may be satisfied by any non-driving period of 30 consecutive minutes (i.e., on-duty not driving, off-duty, sleeper berth, or any combination of these taken consecutively).”Summary of Hours of Service Regulations.

Violations of HOS Rules Can Lead to an Out-of-Service (OOS) Order

One of the most inconvenient and threatening consequences to both drivers and carriers of violating HOS rules is the potential issuance of an Out-of-Service (OOS) Order. 

Such an order immediately keeps the driver from operating until they are compliant again. When drivers and carriers miss delivery deadlines, future orders could get cancelled and business will suffer. 

Furthermore, an OOS order results in a maximum of ten Compliance, Safety, & Accountability (CSA) severity points, compounded with time-weights under the Safety Measurement System (SMS).

If a similar violation occurred within the previous six months, the time-weight multiplier of the CSA severity points is three. Therefore, a ten-point violation would equal a thirty-point multiple when entered into the carrier’s SMS. 

That information will be recorded in the driver’s Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) record, which must be considered when recruiting a driver by any new fleet. However, the current fleet could use that information as a basis for benefits and pay per mile in a new contract.   

Obedience to FMCSA HOS rules isn't just about avoiding fines or OOS orders. The overarching aim of these rules is to uphold safety standards. Violations can trigger sanctions and interventions from the DOT FMCSA, which might have long-term implications for the driver's reputation, employability, and even their commercial driver's license. Not to mention that FMCSA sanctions the carrier if their policy allows or encourages HOS rule violations.

Why You Need to Consult a Traffic Attorney When Accused of Noncompliance

Given the complexity of HOS rules and the magnitude of repercussions for violations, it's always prudent for drivers accused of non-compliance to seek legal counsel. 

A seasoned traffic attorney can offer insights and defenses to challenge the violation in court possibly. While it might seem expedient to simply pay a fine, understanding one's rights and the potential avenues for redress can make a world of difference.

The HOS rules, while intricate, serve a critical purpose in ensuring the safety and well-being of commercial drivers and the general public. Adherence to these regulations protects careers, reputations, and lives. When faced with potential HOS violations, seeking guidance from a qualified traffic attorney can offer clarity and a way forward. 

Safety, compliance, and informed decisions go hand-in-hand in commercial driving. Possible prevention could include more fleet training and concise written policies that stress the importance of compliance to the HOS rules. 

Consult with Bigger & Harman When You Have a Court Date in Hanford Courthouse

Have you been accused of violating HOS rules or falsifying a logbook entry? Call our office during business hours at (661) 349-9300. During non-duty hours, you can use the convenient contact form or email us, and we will reply as soon as we come in. 

Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.


The DMV Portal CA Commercial Driver Handbook.

The FMCSA CFR 49 Part 383.51Driver Disqualifications.

The DOT FMCSA Factsheet, What is CSA—and how does it affect me?  

The FMCSA HOS Rules 2020 Summary of Hours of Service Regulations

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