The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed a pilot program to evaluate even more flexible sleeper-berth split options in the hours of service rules. The pilot program would study allowing commercial motor vehicle drivers to split their required 10-hour rest period into a 6/4 split and a 5/5 split.
The “split sleeper berth” option has been a topic of trucking complaints ever since the FMCSA put in place new hours of service rules in 2013. Those rules required drivers using sleeper berth time to take at least eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate two consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two, before returning to on-duty status.
The agency has been looking at pilot programs to gather data on split sleeper berth use since shortly after the more restrictive sleeper rules went into effect.
Last year, the hours-of-service rules were revised to allow a shorter main period in the sleeper berth of up to seven hours, with the other break being up to three hours to make up that 10-hour rest break. The agency said it did not feel comfortable allowing a larger split because there was not enough data or studies on their safety.
“FMCSA continues to explore ways to provide flexibility for drivers, while maintaining safety on our roadways. This proposed pilot program will provide needed data and feedback for the agency to use now and in the future. Gathering more data on split-sleeper flexibility will benefit all CMV stakeholders,” said FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck in a press release.
During the proposed pilot program, participating drivers would have the option to split their 10 hours of sleeper berth time into two periods, provided that the two periods provide a combined rest amount of at least 10 hours in length. When operating under the pilot program exemption, drivers would be expected to split their sleeper berth time into two periods such that neither period is less than four hours in length; however, drivers would be free to choose whether or not to operate under the exemption based on their schedule. Carriers and drivers desiring to participate would apply to FMCSA for acceptance in the proposed pilot program.
FMCSA said it has worked closely with motor carrier stakeholders on the issue of sleeper berth periods. Both motor carriers and organized labor have supported efforts to explore additional options, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, who stated that “the majority of Teamster team drivers…indicated they preferred having more flexibility in the time that they can obtain restorative rest periods.”
The Federal Register notice will have a 60-day comment period. To read the notice of the proposed pilot program, visit: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service-drivers-pilot-program-allow-commercial-drivers-split-sleeper-berth-time
However, as a regulatory action proposed in the last weeks of the Trump administration, the pilot program proposal could be affected by the incoming Biden administration, which plans to halt or delay “midnight regulations,” actions taken by the Trump administration that will have not yet taken effect by inauguration day.