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According to the Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, drivers are required to begin duty periods after they’ve had a minimum of 10 off-duty hours. Drivers can also be on-duty for a maximum of 14 hours after having their 10 off-duty hours, although driving time is limited to 11 hours. If you are an owner-operator, it can be difficult to wait around until you are able to once again generate revenue. Fortunately, there are some ways off-duty hours can be a valuable asset.

Minimize Detention Timing (Whenever Possible)

Detention time can be frustrating if you remain officially on-duty until you receive a load or get it unloaded because it means you can’t start your off-duty hours until all related processes are completed. But you can use the fact that customers have to pay for on-duty hours to your advantage!

Negotiate deals that provide an added incentive for customers to speed up the loading and unloading process. Therefore, you can start your required off-duty time sooner and be able to move onto your next customer sooner. At the same time, your customers will save money by not having to pay extra due to loading/unloading delays.

Take Advantage of Personal Conveyance Changes

Guidelines pertaining to off-duty driving (personal conveyance) changed in 2018. You are now able to drive off-duty empty or loaded from a customer’s location to the nearest parking/rest spot. Make this rule change an asset if you’re an owner-operator by starting to clock your off-duty hours once you’ve officially released yourself from duty.

You could also do this towards the end of your working day when you are still at a customer’s location but you have no loading or unloading duties. Therefore, you can go off-duty without worrying about losing earnings from detention time!

Rethink Off-Time and Use It to Physically and Mentally Recharge

There’s a tendency to get into the “if the wheels ain’t turnin’, I’m not earnin'” mindset when you are working as an owner-operator and not part of a larger commercial fleet. However, realize that regulations about off-duty hours exist for a reason. All drivers need time to rest and refresh both physically and mentally.

Instead of being overly anxious about maximizing the hours when you are earning, take a cue from the “Frozen” philosophy of life and just “let it go.” You’ll be in a much better position to be productive during your on-duty hours if you use your time off-duty to enjoy a healthy work-life balance. Realize that it’s perfectly okay to use your time off the road to do an assortment of beneficial things, such as:

  • Staying connected and involved with family members and friends
  • Getting regular forms of exercise that are also enjoyable
  • Taking the time to get sufficient rest and relaxation

Lastly, if you have a sensible game plan in place for handling your off-duty hours, you’ll be a more successful and healthy driver and/or owner-operator. Ultimately, less can sometimes be more in terms of potential, professional, and personal rewards.