Why the 14-hour clock rule is the most dangerous of them all

( Photo: Shutterstock )


If we start with the premise that a commercial driver can be both 100% compliant with hours-of-service (HoS) regulations and sound asleep at the wheel simultaneously, then we have a starting point for healthy debate as requested by OOIDA in its recent petition to the FMCSA.

To suggest otherwise and imply compliance to unsafe regulations equates to safety is misleading at best, and downright dangerous at worst.

Why so? Well, we ask drivers to be safe, yet we don’t equip them with either the opportunity or skills to do so, and by skills, I mean those required to deal with constant sleep deprivation caused by inconsistent trip start/end times and those impossible 10-hour breaks that occur after sunrise. Studies show that after sunrise, when the body clock’s sleep/wake cycle is triggered by blue light, a 10-hour break will yield at best 4 to 4.5 hours of sleep and poor-quality sleep at that.

Humans are nocturnal sleepers and have evolved to wake with the sun and sleep in the dark, so anytime a driver tries to sleep in the day they can be both sleepy but not fatigued and fatigued but not sleepy. It’s nothing short of an emotional roller-coaster with the latter the most problematic, and why drivers often say they feel wide awake and ready to roll during the day but can’t because they have to wait until 10 hours has elapsed. When it does, they often feel tired because of the way our alertness circadian rhythm cycles up and down throughout the day. Adding flexibility to the way rest breaks are constructed over a 24-hour period is key, and why an exemption to the 14-hour clock rule with a clock-stopping break is not only a great idea, it has to be considered if improved road safety is truly a desired outcome.

Why it Matters

The OOIDA petition suggests that after allowing for a 10-hour continuous break, a 17-hour workday can commence which means, on occasions, a new workday starts 27 hours, or 3 hours later, than the prior day (or what’s known as a forward rotating schedule). This is much better than the 1934 HOS 10-on/8-off rule that allowed a new workday to start 6 hours earlier every 24 hours, or what’s known as a backwards rotating 6-hour schedule. Schedules that start earlier each day truncate sleep rapidly which cause drivers to suffer from jet-lag on a daily basis; the equivalent of flying east from Dallas to London and then attempting to fall asleep immediately upon landing – it’s almost biologically impossible to achieve without some form of pharmacological assistance. The OOIDA petition is the opposite in that it occasionally creates a forward rotating 3-hour schedule which is more in line with the bio-compatible schedules the FMCSA is attempting to achieve.

The idea that by regulating hours worked we somehow magically ensure drivers are well-rested for the next shift is completely flawed.

My only caveat with any exemption request or petition is that where possible, drivers must try and stick to a 24-hour routine of work and rest as often as possible, so that sleep occurs at the same time every day (along with the timing of light to the eyes).

 We Should Be Regulating Sleep

The bottom line is we’re regulating the wrong thing … we should be regulating sleep and not hours worked since sleep drives human performance far more than skills, experience and training. The idea that by regulating hours worked we somehow magically ensure drivers are well-rested for the next shift is completely flawed. Even mandating a 10-hour continuous break is questionable since most humans only need 6 to 7.5 hrs of sleep per day to be fully functional, so exemptions to the 14-hour clock rule and allowing off-duty rest/sleep time to be spread across the 24-hour day makes complete sense.

Hours of Sleep

In 2006, a consortium of truckload carriers applied for an exemption to parts of 49CFR 395 – it was called “Hours of Sleep” for a very good reason. The exemption requested the 24-hour day be defined as 6 a.m. to 6 a.m. rather than the ludicrous 12 a.m. to 12 a.m. For over-the-road drivers running on the 70-hour/8-day rule, getting back hours from the 8th day prior at midnight is arguable the worst time to start a workday. The exemption also asked for flexibility with the 14-hour clock rule and 34-hour restart provision, and in doing so, would allow a driver to construct the 11 hours driving and 10 hours off-duty however they wanted (with the exception that 6 of the 10 hours had to be continuous), essentially allowing them to drive when they’re awake and sleep when they’re tired (just like with paper logs). This meant they could drive 3 hours, sleep 1.5 hours, drive 6 hours, sleep 3 hours and so on, but at the end of the day they would record no more than 11 hours driving and no less than 10 hours off-duty every 24 hours.

Sounds logical doesn’t it? According the FMCSA at the time, it would not allow the exemption until, “every fleet had electronic logs and the playing field was leveled.” LTL carriers also objected to truckload carriers getting any sort of advantage and the project eventually got voted down by the ATA Hours of Service sub-committee.

It’s flexibility that drives safety outcomes, not prescriptive regulations based on a one-size-fits-all model (where only a small percentage of drivers fit). Flexibility widens the safety aperture and catches more drivers in the safety net as it caters for individual driver sleep personalities and work preference.

Making regulations economically affordable is a well-proven method for increased compliance and improved road safety, that’s why the hours-of-sleep project was so attractive to carriers because the increased flexibility with hours-of-service compliance added another hour on rolling time per day which was equivalent to a 11% rate increase, a 11% increase in driver pay and 15% reduction in driver turnover on top of a projected 22% reduction in preventable accidents.

Now that the ELD Mandate is in place, now just may be the right time to apply for exemptions to rules like the 14-hour clock and introduce performance-based safety programs that reward drivers for good performance with economically affordable regulations rather than impose prescriptive regulations for the lowest common denominator. Wouldn’t it be better to reward the 90% of fleets and drivers for doing the right thing than try to find the 10% who consistently underperform no matter what?

Unlike in 2006 when the Hours of Sleep project began, we now have incredibly accurate machine learning technology that can predict sleep and model driver risk down to the minute, so why not let fleets who want to not only meet regulatory standards but exceed them by doing far more than required apply for exemptions based on performance.

Still Not Convinced

If you’ve gotten this far and you’re still not convinced, ask yourself how do we achieve the goals of the HOS regulation as outlined by the FMCSA, which state, “As the driver of a large, heavy truck, you have a lot of responsibility as you drive down the road. The biggest concern is safety. That brings us to the main reason for the hours-of-service regulations – to keep fatigued drivers off the public roadways. These regulations put limits in place for when and how long you may drive, to ensure that you stay awake and alert while driving, and on a continuing basis to help reduce the possibility of driver fatigue.”

Drivers aren’t robots and one size doesn’t fit all, so in the absence of flexibility, wide-awake drivers will be attempting to sleep in rest-stops on 10-hour breaks during the day, and tired drivers will be always on the road and on occasions sound asleep at the wheel … but they’ll be compliant.

It’s as if the current regulations are achieving the exact opposite of what they set out to do, but then that’s what happens when you live on an island surrounded by reality, aka Washington D.C., which also ranks as the worst city for driver wait times according to a recent FreightWaves study.

The key is to make work start/end times consistent so that we satisfy the body’s drive for ‘anchor sleep’ i.e. sleep in the same place and at the same time every day. I’m all for more flexibility in how drivers rest and meet their anchor sleep requirements, and in particular being able to stop the 14-hour clock in the interests of improved productivity and safety (which aren’t mutually exclusive).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m supportive of most HOS changes since 2004 to better align a driver’s workday with the 24-hour rising and setting of the sun (11 hours driving, 3 non-driving and 10 hours off), but it’s the 14-hour clock rule that’s the most egregious and why the OOIDA petition and KeepTruckin petitions are so important.

Since drivers are paid by the mile and have to fit in 11 hours of driving into a 14-hour window, the prescriptive and inflexible 14-hour clock rule often robs drivers of the incentive to recharge their sleep battery by stopping when they are tired. It’s illogical to think that a nap can’t extend your workday, after all, it does in every other modern workplace.

Paper Logs vs Electronic Logs

Having been an over-the-road driver and used both electronic logs and paper logs, I knew that log compliance had nothing to do with my safety, so in 2006 I began a 5-year study of accident rates of fleets using both types of logs to prove my theory, i.e. that being compliant to unsafe regulations won’t make you a safer driver, in fact it will make you worse.  

Using a publicly available data set in 2007 from the FMCSA Safer system recording DOT-recordable accidents, I studied 30 truckload carriers who ran close to 12 billion miles annually and in 2007 observed that fleets on paper logs recorded a 30% lower DOT recordable accident rate. Fast forward to 2011 and the fleets that had converted from paper to electronic logs had almost the same DOT-recordable accident rate. In more recent years I’ve studied thousands of accidents from fleets with electronic logs – the findings are the same; drivers still fall asleep at the wheel even though they’re compliant with HOS regulations. It’s not the regulations that drive safety, it’s allowing drivers to listen to their bodies and sleep when they’re tired and drive when they’re awake.

These studies also highlight one of the biggest issues drivers have with the ELD Mandate – it removes the flexibility that paper logs afforded them, and by that I mean not doing more hours … just doing them differently based on individual work and sleep preference.

The key is to make work start/end times consistent so that we satisfy the body’s drive for “anchor sleep” i.e. sleep in the same place and at the same time every day. I’m all for more flexibility in how drivers rest and meet their anchor sleep requirements, and in particular being able to stop the 14-hour clock in the interests of improved productivity and safety (which aren’t mutually exclusive).

 Dean Croke is chief analytics officer for FreightWaves. Prior to joining FreightWaves Dean was vice president of data products at Spireon where he headed up the development of new high-frequency telematics data products. He also ran Lancer’s long-haul truck insurance business after spending many years as vice president of Omnitracs Analytics, where he developed data science technologies including machine learning, complex business rules engines and data analytics for transportation companies. Dean was one of the original founders of FleetRisk Advisors and has 35 years of experience in data analytics, transportation, supply chain management, mining and insurance risk management. He still holds a CDL and has driven more than 2 million miles.

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Dean Croke, Chief Analytics Officer, FreightWaves

Prior to FreightWaves, Dean lead Data Science teams at Omnitracs Analytics, FleetRisk Advisors and Spireon in addition to heading up Lancer’s long-haul truck insurance business. He has a strong trucking background in trucking operations, vehicle telematics, data science, business intelligence, data analytics, 24/7 workplace scheduling and human physiology. After pioneering the deployment of the trucking industry’s first predictive models in the mid-2000’s as one of the founders of FleetRisk Advisors, he has developed a specialty in creating operational insights in freight markets using vast data sets and visualization tools to operationalize data. Dean has a Bachelor of Business in Transport and Logistics. Dean’s trucking experience also extends to his days as an over-the-road driver in his native country Australia where in the process of covering over two million miles, he owned and operated some of the largest “road trains” in the world. He was also General Manager of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) where he played a key role in the development of the TruckSafe and Fatigue Management Program – both alternative compliance programs which have been cited in the FMCSA’s recent “Beyond Compliance” initiative.


  1. I have said since the first full week of the elog mandate the 14 hour rule promotes speeding, it promotes road rage and it promotes drivers driving tired. period. The 14 hour rule has to go if safety is what elogs are to represent.

  2. When are the idiots gonna realize that we are humans. But we are not all the same and we cannot all work eat sleep ect the same.We need our own clock to run the way it will work for us.You all have done nothing but made the situation worse for us.We have lost a lot of great drivers over the last few years due to all this safety no common sense bs that’s been forced upon us.Some drivers have gave up,went on to something else or retired,and some has died trying to do as their told.Its a shame what has been going on all for money and control. You people cannot even convince the young generation to come on board to drive.People are tired of all this game that is being played.From trucking companies to shipping to receivers.Hell no more education I have I can come up with better ideas than what you all have been doing.

  3. Need to change the 10hr to 8hr. Do away with the 14hr and allow 12hr drive time within a 24 hr period with 8hr restart and do away with the 34hr reset which has been proven to have no benefit

  4. Its the left ya’ know the scared democrats who decides all this stuff’ and its all for the excuse to run self driving trucks and everything is all connected to the 2030 plan or ADGENDA 21 don’t be fooled there’s a GIANT reason these stupid rules are there, scrape away the surface and you will find lot a of rot……….TRUST ME LOOK DEEP INTO THE DEEP STATE its all there I have delivered to the FEMA CAMPS and it is exactly like they say it is and they have lots of guillotines….

    1. Yeah you can thank that piece of trash George Soros for all this he is funding the left with every dime he has. When TSHTF don’t go to a female camp you better be self sufficient.

  5. It’s just sad yeah I am on the eld logs and I think it is so sad that people who know nothing about this business make up are rules. Even your Dot enforcement agents. I would bet that 90 % have never driven a truck in their lives. But anyway I agree with the body clock. Just like my day yesterday I had not one but two flats on the way from ft Smith ark to Villa Rica Ga. So instead of me getting here at my stop at 11 pm at a time I would normally lay down to sleep I had to wait and get them fixed and it put me in here at 2am in the morning. Cause me to be very tired and causing me to take a 10 hr break. But here it’s 8 am and I am ready to go but no I have to lay or sit here another 4 hrs until 12 noon and finally start my day. Almost causing me to miss my pick up appt. And if that would have happened another day on the road not making any money and isn’t that the reason any of us are. I don’t know any other worker or the equipment used to preform there jobs that is anymore controlled or gone over with such passion as if we are criminals ourselves just saying I agree with a man or woman knowing there body clock and when they want or need to sleep not being penalize for it and we are now because of the great clock. We are no long racing to making a pick up or delivery. We are racing the clock 14 hrs everyday. Shame on law makers. I hope after a yr of this and the system backfires you will swallow your pride and listen to the one who actually do the job.

  6. Logbook are ridiculous. This whole industry is regulated by people who never drove a truck over the road and enforced by the same people. What you think we need and what we really need are ions apart.
    So worried about safety? Regulate 4 wheelers. There’s the safety problem

  7. When i started driving OTR there were 11 million trucks on the road, when I quit OTR there were 15.5 million trucks on the road and exactly ONE new rest area was built for drivers and that was heavily stalked by the DOT so you might get some sleep and you might not. The parking out there is absolutely atrocious. At least with paper logs, if you were really tired you could just stop and get 20 winks and it felt like you slept 8 hours and you could keep going; now drivers get penalized at every turn. You stop at 8 or 9 hours instead of 11 because you just KNOW there won’t be parking further up the road and you get into trouble. You keep going to try to get an honest 11 hours in and there’s no parking and you get into trouble. It’s a no-win situation out there now. Maybe some companies are very driver friendly and will understand your plight out there but most of them the bottom line is simply $$$. I’m so glad i saw the writing on the wall and got a home driving job! You couldn’t get me back OTR for $150k a year as a company driver. I LOVE driving…a lot… but all the b.s. that’s attached to it now makes it miserable. I sleep in my own bed every night now and make nearly as much as when I was OTR. Any company drivers out there, do yourself a big favor and try to get a home job. Even if you get a relatively crappy one, you’ll at least have TIME to look for a good one. It’s worth it believe me.

  8. You arrive at a shipper at noon. After driving 6 hrs. 14-6=8, 11-6=5. They keep you there 4 hours(avg). 8-4=4 it’s now 4pm. So now you loose 1 hour of product time. Your receiver is 600 miles away. This equates to 10 hours of driving. Even though you have 4 hours left to drive. You can’t drive that 4 hours due to this parking issue and the chime of the 14 hour clock. The place you want to stop is 4 and 1/2 hours away. It’s the best place for a prompt delivery. Can’t stop there, to far. So the next best place is 2 hours away. Now you loose 3 hours production. It’s 6pm. I’m not sleepy. I have 8 hours till my destination. Gonna need a 30 minute break so as not to violate the 8 hr rule. Now I have to get up at 3 am. Even though I laid down at 9 pm. I wasn’t able to fall asleep till close to 11pm. I have had 4 hours sleep. FMSCA says since I have been off for 10 hrs I am rested. But my body says idiot you are still tired. Boss says dont be late this customer will fine us $300 if late. No time for a nap. This is the problem with the 14 hour rule. By eliminating the 14 hour rule i could use the 4 hours at the shipper as part of my ten hour break. Not lost the one hour of production. Stopped at 830pm. I’m 2 1/2 hours closer. Inside the 8 hr clock. No need for a 30 minute break. So now I don’t need to get up till 530am. I’m better rested with 2 1/2 hours more rest. I’m more alert to safety concerns. I’m easier to get along with.

    1. Exactly on the money, but you didn’t mention the best place to rest, was CLOSED due to some stupid reason so there again you’re forced to drive sleepy to the next rest stop and pray that you can find a safe place to park and Nice restroom.

  9. They had to institute the 14 hour rule to get past drivers cheating on their logs.

    Now drivers can’t do that because of electronic logs.

    Lets go back to the old 11 hours of driving time, then you stop for a break. We are making this way more difficult than it has to be.

  10. When you did your research on paper logs versus e log carriers did you also note the difference in experience?
    It’s been my experience that up until now e log fleets were made up of the least experienced drivers which would impact their accident rate

  11. The 14hr rule is about the dumbest thing anyone could have ever come up with. I just can’t believe anyone would think that with the stroke of a pin, they could control the sleep habits of 3+ million drivers. Today I have driven a total of 5.75 hrs and by the time I get reloaded today, i’ll hit my 14th he and will have to sit with my finger up my ass for no reason, not to mention i’ 103mi from home on a Friday. This is ludicrous. So here i’ll sit, talk on the phone,play video games, and pick my nose because someone thinks i’v worked to much today and need to rest. 30 plus years on the raid and I can’t believe that Washington has come up with rules that forces me to run when I’m tired because of all the time wasted sitting around when I’m not. You have f**ked with the rules so much that you finally put the cart before the horse. Someone please help us.

  12. When I was driving OTR back in the mid 70’s to early 80’s, I drive 5 and 5. and never ran out of hours or was late for a pickup or delivery. By 5 and 5 I mean I drove 5 hours and the jumped in the sleeper for 5 hours of sleep. when it came time to eat and fuel, I did on the 5 hour sleep. which never took more than 45 minutes to and hour. The way the new e-logs are, I would never go back on the road no matter how much money they paid me.

  13. It’s hard to keep your HOS the same all the time when appointments are 24 hrs a day at 1 stop and only 10 or 12 at next and there total opposite of each other. Also hard to keep your miles and hrs consistent when you are in traffic jams in big cities cuz you have to keep going once your eld clock is started there’s no pause or break to out wait traffic jams.

  14. I drove over 20yrs the concept that drivers need regulated by any HOS rules of any sort is just stupid!
    I agree with certain aspects of your article, in that no two people are chemically equivalent, or have identical stamina/ sleep patterns; for me the worst time periods were the first few hours at sunrise, and the first few hours partly before sunset, and partly after; driving during any other time period had no affect regardless if it was at night, or if it was daylight.
    For me paper logs we’re secondary, and completing my trip according to my own eternal clock, and safety we’re priority number 1; avoiding the log book fine enroute was just a way of life; logging it "legal" was never a problem as long as I could make fuel receipts, and tolls match.
    The entire problem is having any HOS rules to begin with period; if you are not professional, and smart enough to shut down when you are tired, and you fall asleep and kill someone you go to jail!
    It really is that simple.
    The next issue is the dire need to regulate shippers & expectations for delivery; if it is a "HOT" load we have airplanes for that, or at least ship it team drivers only.
    Next is communication; if you cannot physically make the delivery time we have that invention known as a phone; call the dispatcher and let them know you cannot meet the expected delivery time; you would be amazed how well this works!
    My last job I did piggy backs ( new trucks ) we were asked when we would deliver, and the delivery time/date was set per the drivers request; this could be adjusted as needed.
    As far as ELD’s are concerned they have never been needed, and are not needed now.

  15. The idea that anyone, FMCSA, DOT, or the OOIDA can tell me when I’m to tired to drive, or alert and ready to work is ridiculous. I be seen all the changes to HOS, and if the government had absolutely any concern whatsoever for public safety, or truck driver health, they would admit they screwed up, and go back to the original rules, or at least a variant of it. This won’t teach a single truck driver anything they don’t already know, but let’s look at a senerio. You park within chipping distance of your delivery, and go to bed for the night. First thing in the morning, you get unloaded, and rush hour is in full swing. Sure would be nice to park, and maybe grab some breakfast, but your burning your 14 hrs. So instead, you roll out, contributing your bit to the gridlock, and jump starting your blood pressure. So, let’s say you drive 100 miles, and arrive at 10 am for a 2pm pickup. There’s four hours you’ll never get back, plus the loading time, so now your loaded, and evening rush hour is in full swing. By now if you had the option, a 2-3 hour nap would feel mighty good, and by then the kamikaze 4wheelers would all mostly be off the road, BUT, you gotta try to salvage SOME of your work day, so your right back in the mix again.
    How about this… scrap the entire HOS, come back with a flat 12 out of 24 hr. Work day. Include over the road drivers into the labor laws, and force companies to pay for ALL on duty not driving time, and let the people that are actually behind the wheel decide when they are good to go, or need to park.

  16. I do P &D, so you want me out lumping freight 17 hours a day in 100 degree heat. Your crazy mister. Why dont we just go to two lines in the logbook. On duty and off duty. On duty is 12 hours max and you can do what ever you need to do whether driving, unloading, fueling, or eating. Simple and done. Oh and to really fix it pay us by the hour starting at 4 times the minimum wage like the UAW gets paid.

  17. Great points Dean, and you’re right one size does not fit all I run expedite and rarely run a 70 hour clock but setting at a shipper not even on a dock for three hours waiting to get unloaded why can I stop my clock it forces me into not being allowed to grab a cup of coffee only fuel and no lunch and having to drive hard for 3 hrs to get home within 10 minutes of my shut down window I need to stop the clock! With my business I have very unusual run times but if I’m allowed to sleep ”cumulatively” this alone would be great.