What are the differences between the Canadian and U.S. HOS rules?

Published on April 28, 2021

If you’re confused about the hours of service (HOS) rules for drivers in Canada and the U.S., you’re not alone. Trying to make sense of the on-duty time versus drive time versus off-duty time and split sleeper berth is enough to make anyone’s head spin. While each country follows similar HOS rules, there are major differences thrown into the mix. Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between the HOS rules in Canada and the U.S. We’ll also show you how to simplify the entire process with the Geotab ELD (electronic logging device) solution. 

It should be noted, while Northern BI employees are not compliancy expertsthe following information is what we’ve learned from the industry. You should always consult your regions HOS regulations for official rules. 

HOS similarities

In both the Canadian and American HOS rules, a driver works with a 24-hour clock which they must track each day. This table highlights the hours needed for each type of work activity in Canada and the U.S. 

Driving time 13 hours 11 hours
On-duty time 14 hours 14 hours
Off-duty time 10 hours* 10 hours
Required rest N/A 30 minutes

*In Canada, a driver only needs eight hours of consecutive off-duty time to reset their shift. However, they do still need a total of 10 hours of off-duty time in their 24-hour day.

  • In both jurisdictions, a driver must have 10 hours of off-duty time. 
  • In both jurisdictions, a driver can only have a total of 14 hours of on-duty time (which includes driving time).
  • In both countries, a driver’s off-duty time can be either 10 hours of consecutive off-duty time or a split of sleeper berth time in no more than two blocks.  
    • In the U.S., one block of off-duty time can be no less than two hours and the second can be no less than seven hours. Together, they must total 10 hours of off-duty time. 
    • In Canada, neither off-duty block can be less than two hours. Combined, they must total 10 hours of off-duty time. 

As you can imagine, drivers and fleet managers have a lot to keep in mind while on the job. For the longest time, federally regulated carriers used paper logs to track the activities listed above. But with the help of telematics, drivers can now use an ELD to digitally log their hours via a mobile device. Since an ELD is plugged into a vehicle’s OBDII port, it automatically tracks engine data including speed, distance, and time. 

The exemptions

In both jurisdictions, drivers in Canada and the U.S. have a number of exemptions they can use throughout the day. 

  • Personal conveyance: In Canada, drivers can use up to 75 km/day for personal use logged as off-duty time. In the U.S., there is no maximum driving distance or time for personal use. 
  • Yard move: The yard move setting allows drivers to move vehicles and other equipment around a designated area like a job site or parking lot. If the vehicle is going less than 32 km/h, the driver can log the on-duty time as a “yard move” and it won’t go against their driving time. 
  • Adverse driving conditions: In both countries, a driver can take up to two hours of additional driving time beyond the maximum limit if there’s messy weather.

It’s important to remember to follow the regulations in the country you’re driving in.  Even if you work for a Canadian company, if you cross the U.S. border, drivers must abide by the American HOS regulations. In these situations, drivers need to plan ahead to ensure they’re meeting compliance.  

HOS differences

Now that we’ve looked at similarities between the Canadian and American HOS regulations, let’s look at the major differences.

  • In Canada, a driver is subject to both a work shift clock and a workday clock. The workday is defined using the 24-hour clock starting from their “start day”. The start of the day is normally set at midnight but can be set to any time depending on the driver’s schedule. A driver can reset their workday clock once they’ve completed a cycle reset.  
  • Additionally, in Canada, a driver is allowed to defer up to two hours of their required 10 off-duty hours to the following day. 
  • Inside a 24-hour workday, a driver in Canada needs to follow these restrictions: 
    • Off-duty: A driver must have at least 10 hours of off-duty time or sleeper berth time in blocks of no less than 30 minutes. One of the blocks must be at least eight hours.
    • On-duty: A driver must not surpass 14 hours of on-duty time (which includes driving time).
    • Driving time: A driver must not surpass 13 hours of driving time. In Canada, the ELD must warn the driver they’re nearing the end of their permitted driving time (this isn’t the case in the U.S.).  

For more information about the Canadian hours of service rules, please visit the Transport Canada website 

United States
  • In the U.S., a driver is allotted their full availability upon completing 10 hours of consecutive off-duty time. 
  • Alternatively, a driver can split their time using the sleeper berth. This split must be exactly two blocks under the following guidelines: one block can be no less than two hours and the second block can be no less than seven hours. Both blocks combined must total 10hrs. 
  • Once a driver has taken their mandatory off-duty time, they have the following availability: 
    • 11 hours of driving time. 
    • A driver must take a 30-minute break after eight hours of logged driving time.
    • 14 hours of on-duty and driving time combined (these 14 hours are on a timer that continuously counts down starting from when the driver enters on-duty mode after their 10-hour rest. Once the 14-hour window passes, a driver must take 10 hours of off-duty time. 

For more information about the U.S. hours of service rules, please visit the FMCSA website. 

Tracking HOS sounds incredibly complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. With the help of an electronic logging device, drivers can focus on the road rather than the clock. If you want to learn more about how the Geotab ELD system simplifies hours of service regulations, contact Northern BI today! 

More HOS resources:

Canadian Regulations

Canadian ELD Requirements 

Geotab HOS Matrix

FMCSA Summary of Regulations

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Zachary Henderson

Client Solutions Specialist


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