In the dynamic world of trucking, time management is a crucial aspect of operations. Effective time management allows truckers and trucking companies to maximize productivity and profitability.

The 16-Hour Short-Haul Exception is a provision designed to offer truckers increased flexibility within certain criteria. More specifically, it allows commercial truck drivers extended operating hours (from 14 consecutive hours driving to 16 hours) once every 7 consecutive days.

In this article, we’ll delve into the topic of the 16-Hour Short-Haul Exception and how to apply it. We’ll also take a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks that should be considered.

What Is the 16-Hour Short-Haul Exception?

The 16-hour short-haul exception is a provision that allows commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers to extend their hours of service (HOS) from 14 to 16 hours once every 7 consecutive days when hauling cargo within a 150-air-mile radius from their operating base.

This exception applies only under specific conditions outlined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in the United States. 

What Are the Qualifying Conditions?

Commercial truck drivers can only take advantage of the 16-hour short-haul exception under specific conditions, which we’ll be taking a closer look at below.

Only Applies to Short-Haul Trips

Truck drivers (both owner-operators or hired by a trucking company) can make use of the 16-hour short-haul exception for short-hauls. Short-haul trips typically involve drivers starting and ending their shifts at their home base or reporting location within which they only perform short-distance transportation.

Drivers usually return home after clocking out and report to duty following their rest periods. They are not able to use the 16-hour exception during layovers (resting overnight) on any work day as this usually only happens during long-haul trips. 

Can Be Used Once Every 7 Consecutive Days

Moreover, this exception can only be used once every seven consecutive days to prevent overworking and ensure drivers adhere to Hours of Service (HOS) rest period regulations.

Consecutive days refer to a continuous sequence of truck shifts, including weekdays and weekends. Drivers hauling short-haul cargo can take 34 consecutive hours off to restart a weekly or 8-day hauling cycle. 

For example, a short-haul trucker completes a shift on Monday at 6pm after a 10-hour shift as he reports to work 8am daily. On Tuesday, the driver works till 11pm due to additional deliveries, taking their HOS to 15 hours.

The driver uses the 16-hour exception to complete the deliveries on time and return to base before 12am. On Wednesday, he has to report to work after he has fulfilled his hours off-duty and can only work for a maximum of 14 hours as he is ineligible to use the exception until 7 days have passed or he completes his 34 consecutive hours off duty. 

Cannot Drive After the 16-Hour Trip

Any driver opting for the 16-hour short-haul exception must return to their base and clock out within the 16-hour timeframe. In other words, they can’t drive their trucks beyond the window or remain on duty until their rest period ends. 

Must Comply With the 10-Hour Off-Duty Rule

Drivers using the 16-hour short-haul exception must rest at least 10 consecutive hours after each work day. For example, if a driver typically clocks in at 8am and out by 10pm, they can’t clock in again at 8am following a 16-hour shift that completes their duty at midnight.

In other words, they can resume their duty at 10am the next day after using the exception to ensure they get 10 hours off-duty. 

Only Applicable When Not Using the Non-CDL Short-Haul Exception

The 16-hour short-haul doesn’t apply when drivers use the non-CDL short-haul exception. The non-CDL short-haul exception is a different provisional rule within Hours of Service regulations.

The non-CDL short-haul exception allows drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) without a commercial driver’s license within a 150-mile radius of their home base or reporting location for the regular 14 hours.

They also have the option to operate 16 hours for 2 out of 7 consecutive days on duty. As such, they can’t take advantage of these two exceptions simultaneously to extend their on-duty period further.

11-Hour Driving Limits Still Apply

Even with the exception and extended driving window, drivers can only drive their trucks for a total of 11 hours cumulatively while on duty. The additional hours allow them to perform other activities, such as cargo handling (loading and/or unloading), paperwork, fueling, vehicle inspections, and other essential non-driving tasks, improving or maintaining their productivity and efficiency. 

Benefits & Drawbacks of the 16-Hour Short-Haul Exception

The 16-hour short-haul exception offers several lucrative benefits to truckers transporting cargo within a 150-air-mile radius. However, truckers should also be aware of a few drawbacks. We’ll discuss both in more detail below

Exception Benefits

  • Increased Flexibility – The 16-hour short-haul exception allows drivers to extend their on-duty window. Their duty window extends for two additional hours on top of their 14-hour shifts, improving their productivity and performance. For instance, they can wait out traffic congestions by performing other duties like paperwork or administrative tasks and return to their base at a later time without violating HOS limitations. 
  • Touch Freight Opportunities – Another key benefit of the exception is enabling touch freight services. With more time to utilize, drivers can improve customer satisfaction by loading and unloading cargo at pickup or delivery sites.
  • Increased Income – The 16-hour short-haul exception translates to more time on duty, allowing drivers to potentially earn overtime income or from other value-added services. However, trucking companies have different policies, meaning that the additional income can vary drastically. It can also help drivers ensure they capture their full revenue potential. For instance, a traffic stop or delay at any point during the transit can lead to failed deliveries resulting in revenue or income loss. With that in mind, they can use the exception to compensate for the delays and complete deliveries. 

Exception Drawbacks

  • Risk of Fatigue – Working longer than the standard 14-hour timeframe can contribute to more fatigue. Overtime shifts involving cargo handling can lead to physical and mental strain, increasing the risk of mishandling and accidents. 
  • Increased Stress Levels – Drivers who opt for the 16-hour short-haul exception often sacrifice their mental well-being to earn more income due to heightened stress and anxiety levels. In some cases, they may feel pressured by the carrier company they work for to utilize this exception at every opportunity available.
  • Limited Applicability – The 16-hour exception is only applicable to short-haul trips. Therefore, drivers hauling cargo for distances exceeding 150 air miles are not able to take advantage of it. It’s important to note that truck drivers must adhere to standard HOS regulations and the corresponding driving and rest limits at all times. 

Get Free Course Access

If you enjoyed the article, don’t miss out on our free supply chain courses that help you stay ahead in your industry.

Andrew Lin

Co-Founder & Writer
at freightcourse

About the Author

Andrew is a multi-business owner with over 12 years of experience in the fields of logistics, trucking, manufacturing, operations, training, and education.

Being the co-founder of freightcourse has given him the ability to pursue his desire to educate others on manufacturing and supply chain topics.