Busting Myths About ‘How Long Can A Truck Driver Drive?’

Despite the significant reforms the trucking industry has enjoyed, common myths still exist about how long can truck drivers drive. Big rig freighter haulers once worked excessive hours that taxed the men and women of the road into less than safe driving circumstances. Fortunately, reforms about how many hours can a truck driver drive have enhanced road safety and improved the trucking lifestyle.

Careers for Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders are now more desirable than ever because the trucking industry struggles with a shortage of qualified men and women to meet the growing demand for over-the-road delivers. And major corporations are now competing for CDL professionals straight out of driving school. Trucking is one of the few industries that remains virtually layoff-proof and delivers a good-paying salary without the expense of a four-year degree.

With that being said, these are true facts about how many hours a truck driver can drive. Hopefully, this overview will dispel myths about the rigors of truck driving.

How Many Hours Can a CDL Driver Drive in a Day?

The reforms to excessive driver-hours created under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) place strict hours-of-service limits on drivers. It would be simple for the FMCSR just to put a number on drivable hours. But real wheels-on-the-road work tends to have complex variables. With that reality in mind, the FMCSR created slightly more involved rules.

The bedrock of drivable hour reforms rests in the “11-hour rule.” Under Part 395 of the FMCSR, a CDL holder may only operate the rig for a maximum 11 hours during a 14-hour period. The caveat to this rule is that a driver cannot pull straight 11-hour shifts. In fact, drivers are not allowed to run 8 or more hours straight. If you embark on a career in long-haul trucking, minimum 30-minute off-duty breaks are required. However, drivers can exceed the 11-hour rule under certain circumstances.

In scenarios in which drivers are confronted with adverse conditions that force them to slow down or make road-side stops, an additional 2 hours can be driven. Things like congested traffic do not apply. The revised 13-hour rule only involves conditions such as severe weather, road closures and crashes that impact a route. In the interest of reducing driver fatigue and improving highway safety, a CDL professional must take a solid 10 hours off-duty when their time is exhausted.

The driving hour changes have turned the round-the-clock perception of drivers downing coffee and energy drinks around. These days professional drivers live a more regular daily schedule that includes time off and a reasonable quality of life. That probably busts a few of the commonly held driving misconceptions about the industry.

How Many Hours Can a CDL Driver Work in a Week?

In addition to daily limits about how many hours can a truck driver drive, there are also weekly considerations. Today’s truckers do not crisscross the country without taking days off. Just as working more than 8 hours at a stretch can cause driver fatigue, so would not having a reasonable number of days off. That’s why the FMCSR have a defined, but flexible weekly limit.

Weekly guidelines are often referred to as the 60/70-hour limit. Drivers are expected to take at least one floating day off in a 7 or 8-day time frame. That day off does not necessarily have to fall on a set day of the week. The basic hourly timetable is that a trucker may only drive a maximum of 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days. Naturally, it can be a tad more complicated.

For example, if you work for an outfit that doesn’t run freight 7 days per week, you are limited to 60 hours. Although drivers are not prohibited from picking up side work, you must take enough time off to fall below the 60-hour threshold.

The same concept holds true for outfits that operate every day. Once you hit the 70-hour mark, a driver must take enough time off to get below the 70-hour threshold. All drivable-hours, regardless of who you work for, count toward the maximum drivable hours.

In terms of time off, FMCSR regulations require drivers to take a minimum of 34 hours off to reset their 60-70 clocks. Basically, a full day off plus 10 hours.

It’s also important for people thinking about embarking in good-paying career in the trucking industry to understand that on-duty limits include the time at a loading or unloading facility, inspection time, etc. So, there’s a difference between drivable hours and on-duty hours. If you are on the clock in any way, those hours count against the 60-70 but not necessarily the daily limit.

How Long Can a Truck Driver Drive?

Another important thing for aspiring CDL professionals to keep in mind is that workers are very much in the driver’s seat. The nation’s CDL worker shortage has freight companies competing for qualified drivers by offering terrific wages, health benefits and other perks. In terms of the question “how long you could drive with a CDL?” The answer is: An entire career.