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Dot 16 Hour Rule Exemption in 2021

For those looking to run a successful trucking company, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the dot 16 hour rule exemption and other regulations to ensure your fleet remains in good standing with the DOT. Tracking the hours of service is typically one of the most time-consuming tasks that truck drivers must complete daily.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) now has a mandate that requires motor carriers to use an electronic logging device (ELD) to track their record of duty status.

Many fleet managers and CMV drivers are reviewing these hours of service regulations to be more informed about the details regarding any exceptions or changes made while drivers are out on the road. In this article, we’ll take a look at what the DOT 16 hour short haul exemption is, the conditions that all drivers need to meet, and how it’s meant to be operated.

driver writing in electronic log book

What is the Dot 16 Hour Rule Exemption?

The 16-hour short haul exemption is a specific exception that allows drivers to remain on-duty and extend their 14 hours of service. This 16-hour rule is specifically designed for short-haul drivers because they must return to their primary work reporting location every day. However, it’s important to note drivers will not increase their 11 hours of driving per day.

Why is the 16 Hour Short Haul Exemption in Place?

The reasoning behind this 16-hour rule is quite simple. Drivers who report to the same work location daily experience delays occasionally and shouldn’t be stopped from returning home because of their restrictions on their duty hours.

To illustrate how the 16-hour short haul exception may be used, let’s use an example. If a driver goes on a 5-hour long trip and experiences a long hour delay while delivering their load, they still need to return to their reporting location.

Without the 16 hour rule, truckers may max out on their 14-hour limit while being an hour away and have only drive for 9 hours.

Essentially, since the hos does extend their 14-hour service, this gives drivers more time to make it back to their reporting location without having to stop. Without this 16-hour short haul exception, many drivers will drive recklessly and speed to make it home without violating the HOS rules.

This helps in situations where a driver is just around the corner from home. It prevents them from having to sleep at a hotel when they’re just minutes away from home.

Keep in mind that this 16-hour rule can only be used once per week and only for drivers who report to the same work location daily. With many fleet management solutions that have gps tracking, fleet managers will be able to check whether your hos is accurate.

In addition, drivers can be pulled over and required to show their ELD, especially if they seem to be driving recklessly due to fatigue.

Why the DOT Regulates the Hours of Service

There are regulations in place to ensure that CMV drivers aren’t overworked. A driver that is tired or worn out is much more likely to break the driving limit and get into traffic accidents. The DOT forces drivers to take mandatory breaks from driving for a certain number of hours.

drivers electronic log book

These drivers apply to both long-haul and short-haul drivers. In addition, school and city bus drivers also must ensure compliance with the DOT hours of service rules. The purpose is to help drivers maintain a proper sleep schedule to prevent fatigue.

These hours of service rules will limit specific conditions on the number of driving hours per day and week. Any transportation company that owns a fleet of vehicles must abide by these rules and give their drivers extended rest periods to take a break.

What Qualifies CMV Drivers for the 16-Hr Short-Haul Exception?

The only way for any truckers or drivers of a commercial motor vehicle to use the 16-hour exception is that they must be in compliance with the following conditions:

  1. The driver hasn’t utilized the 16-hour rule short haul exception in the last 6 days unless the driver happened to break their weekly cycle by having a 34-hour break.
  2. For the last five workdays, the driver returns to their regular work reporting location after being out on the road.
  3. The driver must be released from work after they use the 16-hour exception.

It’s important to note that the FMCSA requires that non-CDL short-haul drivers do not qualify or use the 16-hour short-haul exception.

How Long Can a Truck Driver Drive Before Resting?


Every driver has a 14 hour duty period, which is also called the 14-hour rule. For this duty period, the rule is that drivers have an 11-hour window to drive. However, according to the dot hours of service rules, the trucker must stop driving and break after 8 hours for at least 30 minutes window before they can resume driving.

So to recap, they can be driving for 11 out of the 14 hours in their duty. For the other 3 hours, the driver can perform other tasks such as adding a load and getting fuel for their vehicles.

In addition, drivers typically perform activities such as inspection, fleet vehicle maintenance, unloading, performing drug testing required by the FMSCA, and other work. Over the course of one week, a driver can only drive up to 60 hours, or 70 hours over 8 days.

In essence, CMV drivers have 14 hours of windows to finish their driving work and return to their location before the time limit runs out. After the 14 hour window, the trucker must stop driving and take 10 hours off their work before beginning a new hos work period.

Exceptions to the 16 Hour Rule

There are a few exceptions to these regulations. One example includes truckers that are stuck in very dangerous and inclement weather conditions or driving situations. In this case, the regulations allow drivers to exceed the normal 11-hour driving time, but they must stay within a 14 hour of duty.

Do Local Truck Drivers Have to Keep a Logbook?

Truckers won’t need to keep a logbook around, but employers must use a GPS tracking solution to record accurate hours of service for their fleet drivers. The records must show the following:

  • The total time spent driving over the last week.
  • The exact time that the driver was released from duty every day
  • The total hours of service per day
  • The time that each fleet driver reported to duty

electronic logging device for trucking industry

What is Sleeper Berth, and Does Sleeper Berth Count as Off-Duty?

Sleeper berth is a term that truckers use when they are allowed to rest in the sleeper-berth compartment of their vehicle unit. This is different from the off-duty time since the driver is relieved from all work responsibilities.

So does sleeper berth count for off-duty time? The short answer is yes. A sleeper berth can count towards the 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time required by a trucking company. The driver isn’t allowed to drive during this 10 hour period. Once this off-duty period is finished, they can begin their 14-hour duty period and 11-hour driving.

In addition, if you spend time in the sleeper berth, it can extend a driver’s 14-hour limit. If a driver spends at least 8 straight hours in the sleeper berth, that will not count towards the 14 hours.

This means you still have the remaining hours of service on your 14-hour duty. For example, if you drove 7 hours, then spent 8 hours in a sleeping berth. You have 7 hours of duty time and 4 hours of driving left.

We hope you found this article helpful in helping you understand the 16-hour exception so your fleets will comply with the DOT regulations.

12 thoughts on “Dot 16 Hour Rule Exemption in 2021”

  1. “this 16-hour rule can only be used once per week and only for drivers who use the same route daily. ”

    There is nothing in the rule that says it’s only for drivers who use the same route daily.

  2. My husband has worked 12 hours a day since Dec.26th! Is this legal for a company to make their drivers work like this? He does do short haul agricultural feed haul. But is totally exhausted.

    1. It is totally normal for Ag drivers to work 13-17 hours a day 5-7 months out of the year here in NorCal, usually with one day off per week. 12 hours a day is pretty standard in 75% of trucking….. If 12 hour days are too much for him then he chose the wrong career.

      1. That is in sensitive, i take it you are management of one of these slave driven Truck companies, who only pay for mileage driven and expect the driver to do more work, sweeping trailers, fixing lights…this abuse of truck drivers need to stop. If a driver loves to drive, he has not picked the wrong profession, just the wrong company.

  3. Can a company plan a local or short-haul drivers schedule around the 16-hour exception? Example, plan the drivers delivery schedule such that the only way to complete the delivery schedule and return home is to use the 16-hour exception.

  4. On short haul using the 16 hour rule, employer would be required to maintain duty status both driving, and on duty. Am I understanding this correctly? They just need tracking device and ELD in truck is not required. When requested they would need to provide information within 2 day period?

  5. Hi Tina I drive a concrete truck in Boston if I work a 14hr day I’m I Eligible to work a 16 hour day in the same week I might drive 5 miles a day be on job sites for hours at a time thx you

      1. What if you left home for the week cause your parked at home over the weekend and then stay at one hotel every night, can you use the 16 during that week still?

        1. The 16-hour rule helps to avoid situations where a driver takes a 6-hour trip, experiences a 4-hour delay when delivering a load, and still needs to return to the reporting original location. Without the 16-hour rule, the driver might reach the 14-hour on-duty limit when just an hour away from home.

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