Chad Hart
Chad Hart Jan 23, 2019

The US Department of Transportation sets rules for commercial vehicles that mandate drive-time and rest-time tracking. These figures are used to ensure drivers get enough rest while on the road. These requirements seem obvious to long haul trucking companies, but these rules also apply to the construction industry. In this post we will review the Hours of Service (HOS) rules, the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) hours tracking mandate, and talk about when these apply to construction operations.

Hours of Service (HOS) rules

Fatigued drivers are dangerous to themselves and others. There have been regulations governing maximum-driving hours since the 1930’s. We have learned a lot about fatigue and driver safety in the past 90 years, so it is no surprise these rules have changed along with the agencies that regulate them. Today, the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA), a division of the Department of Transportation (DOT), sets the rules around the maximum time a driver can be behind the wheel, minimum break and rest periods, and maximum work hours per week.

Do these rules apply to construction? Do you utilize commercial vehicles – i.e. the ones that require commercial plates? Do you operate on public roads? If and answered yes to both of those then yes, you likely do need to worry about HOS rules.

HOS rules apply to commercial vehicles involved in inter-state operations. This includes:

  • Vehicles over 5 tons – that ranges from larger pickup trucks to heavy on road vehicles like dump trucks, pavers, etc. and anything with a DOT number
  • Trucks for cargo with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of more than 5 tons – like companies that do their own hauling
  • Vehicles designed to transfer 15 or more people (plus the driver) – like a bus or large van to transport staff to a site
  • The transport of hazardous materials – like the removal of oil or asbestos waste

See the summary table below for these rules or check the FMCSA site for more details.

Hours of Service Rules Summary

Property Carrying Vehicles

  • Commercial drivers must not exceed 11 hours of drive time in a 14-hour shift (the 3-hour difference is for non-driving-tasks)
  • That 11 hours can only be driven if it was proceeded by 10 consecutive hours off-duty
  • No more than 8 hours of driving without a 30-minute break – either off-duty or in a sleeper berth
  • Drivers must not exceed 60 hours on-duty in 7 consecutive days for businesses that do not operate every day (i.e. they take weekends off) or 80 hours within 8 days if the business operates every day of the week
  • 34 hours off is required to fully reset the consecutive day clock

Passenger Vehicles

  • No more than 10 hours of driving in a 15-hour shift
  • 8 hours off duty after 15 hours on-duty
  • A maximum of 60 hours in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days for fleets that operate every day


  • Drivers who start and stop from the same location – like on a construction site – for 5 days can work a 16-hour shift instead of 14, but must still follow the 11-hour drive time rule
  • Drivers for certain industries, including those handling construction materials, can take a 24-hour restart instead of 34
  • A sleeper berth can be used for rest so long as there is an 8-hours of sleep
    • This allowed to be split with into 2 sessions for passenger-carrying drivers
    • Property carrying drivers require an additional 2 hours of off-time before or after sleeping

Note, there are many caveats, exemptions, and some state-specific variances. Make sure you consult with a professional for specifics that apply to you.


Electronic Logging Devices (ELD)

How are these HOS drive times enforced? The FMCSA requires drivers - and sometimes the motor carrier - to keep logs. Historically this was done on paper, but paper logs are easy to cheat and were commonly abused.  FMCSA studies showed that use of electronic logging devices that keep truthful, precise measurements dramatically reduced crash rates. As a result, The FMCSA created new rules mandating electronic logging starting on of December 18, 2017.  

What exactly is an ELD?

The FMCSA has specific requirements for ELD devices themselves.  Usually the ELD is an onboard computer with its own display or even a mobile app that can talk to the vehicle. At a minimum, the ELD must:

  • Interface with the vehicle itself to monitor engine status, motion and location – if the vehicle is traveling a status must be entered
  • Allow the driver to enter their Record of Duty Status (RODS) – i.e. their driver log
  • Show a visual report to the driver and law enforcement
  • Transmit data in a standard format to law enforcement – i.e. Bluetooth, USB, email, etc.
  • Be physically secured and have data encryption to prevent tampering and unauthorized alterations

Older devices may fall under a former set of rules that called these trackers Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRD). The exemption for AOBRDs will expire next year on December 26, 2019, so new ELDs will need to be installed.

Do construction companies need to use ELDs?

Driving is really secondary to the primary business of construction – building and rehabilitating– so do you really have to worry about compliance?

If you need to follow the Hours of Service (HOS) rules above, then yes, you do need to worry about compliance. ELDs are a tracking and enforcement mechanism for HOS. The HOS rules are not impacted by ELD. ELD is mechanism for tracking hours.

However, there are some exceptions for ELD devices that are relevant to construction companies. For example, if you operate exclusively within less than a 115-mile radius for CDL drivers and a 172-mile radius for non-CDL drivers from a normal work location? If the driver’s normal location is a specific site or yard, then they do not need to use an ELD to track their hours, so long as they stay within that range. However, the construction company is still required to track working hours for that driver, so you still might want to have an ELD to help do that help.

There are a couple of other exceptions that may be relevant:

  • Drivers who drive less than 8 days within a 30-day period do not need an ELD – this might be helpful for commercial drivers that make infrequent trips to drop off equipment, like setting up a site that will be worked on for weeks.
  • Vehicles made before 2000 – if you have an older truck hanging around, these do not require an ELD but the driver still needs to do a paper log.

Fines for non-compliance

The fines for not complying with these rules can be expensive – averaging thousands of dollars or more according to the NTA. If caught your driver will be placed out of service for at least 10 hours adding even more expense for the towing that will likely be needed not to mention the costs of late delivery.

ELD for Fleet Management

ELDs are needed for HOS compliance, but they can other benefits beyond safety and compliance too. A contractor can use the electronic record of drivers’ hours to help with scheduling and payroll. The ELD’s computer connection can even be leveraged for real time vehicle location tracking and monitoring for engine alerts.

HOS and ELD doesn’t need to be hard

There are a lot of rules. Setting up an ELD seems complicated.  The fines are expensive.

Is FCSMA compliance difficult? With the right tools, it doesn’t have to be.

ELDs can help reduce the burden of tracking for both the driver and the business owner while saving direct and indirect costs for everyone. Like it or not, ELD compliance is mandatory, so use it as an opportunity to improve your fleet tracking. ELD and fleet management is a positive investment in your business and makes you more reliable and trustworthy to your clients.

If you’ve determined that fleet tracking and compliance is necessary for your business, visit Tenna to learn more and get started.


About Chad Hart

Chad is an analyst and consultant at, a product management, marketing and strategy advisory. His recent experience and projects include authoring an extensive report on the applications of artificial intelligence in communications services, managing a new product incubator program, launching a communications infrastructure startup, product marketing and ownership of various communications products.