It goes without saying that truck drivers cover a lot of ground. Many long-distance truckers log over 100,000 miles per year. Even our daily driving jobs in Philadelphia can result in thousands of miles traveled in a year since there’s still plenty of ground to cover in the big city and beyond!

Suppose you don’t know much about the world of trucking, or you’ve only recently started searching for CDL truck driver jobs. In that case, you might not have known that there are actually federal regulations surrounding truck driving time limits. Here’s some more information about how far truckers can drive in a single day.

Federal Requirements for Truck Drivers

To protect the safety of truckers and the cargo they carry, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires truck drivers to adhere to the following requirements:

11-Hour Driving Limit: After at least ten consecutive hours off duty, a truck driver can drive for a maximum of 11 hours within a 14-hour driving period.

14-Hour Driving Period: The “14-hour driving period” is determined as the time period between which the 11 driving hours must fall. These 14 hours are commonly referred to as being “on duty.”

30-Minute Driving Break: If a driver has been on the road for eight cumulative hours without at least one 30-minute interruption or break, they are required to take a 30-minute break.

60/70-Hour Limit: A trucker cannot keep driving after 60 hours on duty for seven consecutive days or 70 hours on duty for eight straight days. In order to start this schedule again, the trucker must be off duty for at least 34 consecutive hours.

There are a few exceptions to this rule:

  1. In the case of adverse driving conditions, truck drivers can extend the 11-hour limit by up to two hours.
  2. If they are within 150 miles of headquarters, truckers can drive up to 14 hours per day due to short-haul exceptions.

Note: Since the FMSCA is a branch of the Department of Transportation, you will sometimes see these regulations listed interchangeably as “FMSCA requirements” and “DOT requirements.”

How Far Can Truckers Travel?

There are no federal guidelines that dictate how much ground truckers can cover. Therefore, it seems easy enough to multiply the highway speed limit by the number of hours a trucker travels, and voila! You have the answer you’re looking for — or do you? 

Unfortunately, life is never as simple as a quick math problem. There are a few things to consider that affect the distance a truck driver ends up covering. These factors include:

Loading and Unloading Times

Truckers don’t just operate tractor-trailers and other cargo-carrying vehicles. Remember, the cargo they carry is the whole reason they’re going from point A to point B … and C, D, and beyond. While some pickups and dropoffs are simple, others are more complex, so different drivers end up needing different amounts of time for loading and unloading.

Fuel and Rest Stops

Have you ever wondered how often truck drivers have to refuel? Most 18-wheelers have tanks that hold between 150 and 300 gallons of gas, but they only get around 6 miles per gallon due to their size (sometimes even less). That means even with a maximum tank capacity of 300 gallons and a consistent fuel economy of 6 miles per gallon, and the average 18-wheeler can travel around 1,800 miles before needing to refuel. That might sound like a long distance — but remember, 11 hours on the road averaging 50 miles per hour equals 550 miles. Truck drivers will need to stop for fuel every three days, and that’s with the most generous calculations! 

Humans need fuel, too, just not the diesel variety. Truck drivers will need to pause their journeys to do things like purchase food, sleep for the night, and take their 30-minute breaks. This definitely affects the amount of ground they can cover in one day.

Traffic, Weather, and Other Unpredictable Situations

No one can control traffic, even though we wish we could! While many truckers set up their schedules to avoid rush hour jams, sometimes situations arise that make it impossible. Speaking of unavoidable circumstances, the weather can also affect traffic patterns and travel times. Snow, ice, and heavy rain can significantly slow a truck driver’s journey to their destination.

As most truckers know, traffic and weather are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unpredictable scenarios on the road. Truckers must stay prepared for everything from auto accidents to issues with cargo, navigation problems, and more. The more experience and training they receive, the better equipped they become to deal with these situations as they arise. 

Start a Rewarding Career Today

Being a truck driver isn’t the easiest job in the world, but we believe it’s a truly rewarding one. There’s nothing like the feeling of satisfaction when you’ve dropped off an important delivery — except maybe the thrill of the open road! Apply for a position with TQM Logistics today and see where the journey can take you. We’re excited to see what you can bring to our team!