A Simple Guide to the FMCSA’s 34-hour Restart Rule

March 02, 2020

Is your fleet navigating the FMCSA emergency COVID-19 HOS suspension? Read our FAQ to learn what the new rules are, if they apply to your fleet, and how to adjust your operations to stay compliant.

Though the second and final phase of the ELD mandate is now in full effect, some confusion still lingers about one important part of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Hours of Service (HOS) regulations: the 34-hour restart rule. 

To clear up this confusion, and to make sure your fleet remains compliant, here is an informative guide that breaks down common questions about the 34-hour restart rule:

What is the 34-hour restart rule?

Why 34 hours?

Is the 34-hour restart rule mandatory?

Where can my drivers take their 34-hour breaks?

Do my drivers need to take their 34-hour breaks at certain times?

Are there any exceptions to the restart rule?

What is the 34-hour restart rule?

The 34-hour reset rule is part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA’s) updated HOS regulations that took effect in 2017. But to understand the full impact of the 34-hour reset, a quick refresher on truck drivers’ HOS statuses is helpful. The four Hours of Service statuses are: 

  • Off Duty: The driver isn’t working.

  • Sleeper Berth: The driver is resting in their cab. 

  • On Duty: The driver is working, but isn’t driving—this means they may be fueling, inspecting, or unloading.

  • Driving: The driver is driving.

The 34-hour rule is a way for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) truckers to quickly reset their workweek if they are nearing the maximum number of hours allowed in ‘On Duty’ or ‘Driving’ statuses: 70 hours in eight days or 60 hours in seven days. Drivers can reset their clock by taking a break of 34 consecutive hours in two different statuses: ‘Off Duty’ or ‘Sleeper Berth.’ Once drivers have completed their 34-hour break, they can resume working. 



Why 34 hours?

It may seem like an arbitrary number, but 34 hours was chosen for a reason. 

The FMCSA found that 34 hours provides the right amount of time for drivers to rest while still retaining flexibility for trucking companies. In their studies, the FMCSA  found that 34-hours is the optimal amount of time to reduce fatigue-related fatalities and accidents due to exhaustion. Though original proposals suggested a 24-hour break, the FMCSA found that anything less than 34 hours would be too inflexible for trucking companies to schedule breaks, causing “unavoidable impacts to motor carrier operations that the agency could not justify from a safety or economic standpoint.”

Is the 34-hour restart rule mandatory?

No, the 34-hour restart provision is not mandatory. The rule is simply one tool you can use to manage your drivers’ hours. Depending on your drivers and their preferences, a 34-hour restart may be the quickest way to reset their clocks and get back on the road. 

Where can my drivers take their 34-hour breaks?

A common misconception about the reset provision is that drivers need to take their 34-hour breaks at home, but that’s simply not true. Drivers are free to take their breaks wherever convenient, as long as they log their breaks using the time standard of their home terminal. This means if your home terminal uses PST to log hours, your drivers must log their 34-hour break in PST as well. 

If your drivers want to take their 34-hour breaks in sleeper berths, there is one extra provision. Drivers using a sleeper berth must take at least eight of their 34 hours in the sleeper berth. Your drivers are free to split up these eight hours into two separate breaks, if they so choose. The remaining 26 hours of their 34-hour reset can then be taken wherever your drivers please.



Do my drivers need to take their 34-hour breaks at certain times?

Once a driver hits their ‘On Duty’ or ‘Driving’ limit, they are free to immediately take their 34-hour break. In 2014, Congress suspended the requirement that drivers could only have a 34-hour reset once every seven days and that two portions of the reset break had to be taken over two consecutive mornings from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. 

Are there any exceptions to the restart rule?

A majority of the confusion surrounding the 34-hour reset is about the exceptions to the rule: what does and doesn’t count towards a driver’s log time. The 34-hour restart rule relies entirely on how many hours a driver is working within seven to eight days, so it’s crucial to know what does and doesn’t count towards your drivers’ HOS logs when determining if your drivers should take 34-hour breaks. 

Here are three common practices that don’t count towards your drivers’ HOS:

  1. Personal conveyance: If your drivers use work vehicles on their own time for personal transportation, this time is considered ‘Off Duty’. This personal conveyance time will still be tracked using an ELD, but won’t contribute to their HOS. So any amount of time a driver spends in personal conveyance will not count towards needing a 34-hour reset break. 

  1. Short-haul drivers: Drivers that travel within a 100 air-mile radius of their home terminal may qualify to track their hours with a time card instead of an ELD. Since these kinds of drivers may be exempt from HOS regulations, they might not need to adhere to the 34-hour restart rule (as this restart is part of HOS rules.)

  1. Yard moves: If you need your drivers to move their vehicles to a different spot in your yard or job site, this won’t impact their HOS. The FMCSA has outlined special driving categories that exempt yard moves from counting towards drivers’ log times. While yard moves will still be logged as ‘On Duty’ time, any time your drivers spend moving vehicles within your yard won’t impact their available working time.

These three exemptions are thoroughly regulated by the DOT, so be sure to read through the FMCSA guidelines before deciding if your drivers meet these exceptions or can take part in the HOS regulations’ 34-hour reset.

Manage your driver statuses with Samsara

Samsara’s FMCSA-approved ELD solution lets you accurately track your driver’s statuses in real-time so you can run a compliant, efficient fleet. Using real-time HOS insights, you can plan routes and dispatch drivers to avoid violations. And because it plugs into a vehicle’s OBD port, the ELD device not only tracks HOS but also collects diagnostic information.

With Samsara, you can collect and consolidate the real-time insights you need to streamline your fleet management.  If you’re looking to improve HOS tracking with real-time insights into your drivers’ statuses, check out Samsara’s ELD solution or sign-up for a free 30-day trial



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