Understanding Hours of Service in Canada

Dec 10, 2020


Regulations on hours of service help keep all road users safe by setting limits on driving time and requiring minimum rest periods for heavy vehicle drivers. Tired drivers pose a greater risk to their own safety and that of others. These rules apply to both truck drivers, who must comply with them, and to carriers, who must not coerce drivers into violations.

Here is some useful information about the Hours of Service (HOS) rules that apply in Canada south of the 60th parallel.

Duty Status

Hours of service rules revolve around the notion of duty status, which encompasses the four main types of activity drivers engage in.

Duty statuses can be divided into two broad categories:

  • On-Duty
    • Legislation defines this category with a long list of activities, which essentially includes any activity engaged in on behalf of the carrier.
  • Off-Duty
    • This category includes all activities other than those in the “On-Duty” category.

The table below summarizes the concept. Statuses appear in the same order as they usually do in logbooks.

Every day, the driver’s daily activities are sorted under their appropriate status and tallied. HOS rules apply to these status totals.

Application periods

South of the 60th parallel in Canada, time spent in each status is regulated over three distinct periods:

  1. Day
  2. Work shift
  3. Cycle


A day is a period of 24 consecutive hours that starts and ends at the same time each day. For a large share of drivers, this period extends from 12:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. – a “normal” day, from midnight to midnight. However, using a different 24-hour period is perfectly acceptable.

Work shift

A work shift is a period of activity between two off-duty periods of at least eight consecutive hours. As a result, a work shift does not have a set length of time and can occur at any point during a day or even extend into a second day.


Canada has two duty cycles: cycle 1, which is 7 days in length, and cycle 2, which is 14 days. Cycles represent a set length of time, but are not set at a particular point in time.


HOS rules set maximum limits on driving time, “on-duty” time, and the number of hours elapsed since the last rest period. Drivers may not continue driving past these limits. They also set the minimum number of hours to be spent “off-duty.”

These limits apply to the previously mentioned periods:

  • Day
  • Work shift
  • Cycle

Let’s look at the rules for each of these periods.

Day – “on-duty” time

Drivers may no longer drive once they have reached

  • 13 hours of driving within a day
  • 14 hours of “on-duty” time within a day

Day – “off-duty” time

Drivers must accumulate at least 10 hours of off-duty per day. This “Off-duty” time must include at least two hours taken outside the block of eight consecutive rest hours. These 2 hours may be divided into breaks, which must be at least 30 minutes in length.


Rest periods of less than 30 minutes do not count towards off-duty time, but rather keep tallying as part of “on-duty” time.

Example: If a driver takes a 10-minute break, that rest period will not count as part of the 10 hours of off-duty time.

Work shift

Drivers may no longer drive

  • Once they have reached 13 hours of driving time in a work shift

  • Once they have reached 14 hours of “on-duty” time in a work shift

  • Once 16 hours have elapsed since the beginning of the work shift


Rules regarding cycles can be divided into three categories: cycle basics, cycle resets, and cycle changes.

Cycle basics

No matter which cycle drivers use, they may not drive if they haven’t taken at least 24 hours of “off-duty” time within the last 14 days.

It is important to realize that cycles are not set periods of 7 or 14 days. They are a rolling timeframe. The 7 or 14 days used to calculate 70-hour or 120-hour limits shift forward one day, every day. As a result, a driver using cycle 1 who has logged 10 hours of “on-duty” time each day for 6 days, is allowed 10 hours of “on-duty” time on the 7th day before having to stop driving. If he logs these 10 hours of “on-duty” time and stops to rest, he will have another 10 hours of on-duty time available the next day.

Another important detail to consider is that a driver has to stop driving, but doesn’t have to stop “on-duty” activity outside driving. Knowing this, the driver can keep non-driving activities for when the cycle limit is reached. The driver still has to abide by the day and work shift limits, however.

Cycle resets

A driver can end one cycle and start another after logging:

  1. 36 consecutive hours of “off-duty” time for cycle 1

  2. 72 consecutive hours of “off-duty” time for cycle 2

After these periods of “off-duty” time, “on-duty” hours logged over the past 7 or 14 days are reset and begin accumulating again with the next “on-duty” activity.

As mentioned in the cycle basics, it is important to realize that drivers don’t have to reset their cycle every 7 or 14 days. As long as they stop driving once they reach their 70-hour or 120-hour limit, they can continue to engage in “on-duty” activity every day, uninterrupted. However, they must comply with the rule requiring a period of 24 consecutive hours “off-duty” in the 14 previous days.

Cycle changes

Drivers can switch the cycle under which they operate when they meet conditions to reset their current cycle.

  1. They must take 36 consecutive hours “off-duty” to switch from cycle 1 to cycle 2.

  2. They must take 72 consecutive hours “off-duty” to switch from cycle 2 to cycle 1.

Since the cycle is resetting, “on-duty” hours are reset and begin accumulating with the next “on-duty” activity. The rules of the selected cycle also come into effect.

Rule Overlap

Individually, these rules aren’t particularly complex. The complexity stems from how they overlap. Drivers have to comply with rules concerning day, work shift, and cycles, simultaneously.

The greater complexity stems from the overlap between the day and work shift periods. Drivers can complete work shifts that extend over two days. Such situations can be complex, but can be avoided by selecting a day start time that aligns with the work shift start time.


The concepts and rules presented in this post cover the basics of HOS rules. There are several more concepts, but drivers who follow these rules do comply with hours of service regulations.


Commercial Vehicle Drivers Hours of Service Regulations

Warning: The information presented in this post is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or professional advice.

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