The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced its intent to establish a pilot program to study the implications of adding 6/4 and 5/5 sleeper berth splits into the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. Once the proposal is formally published in the Federal Register, interested parties will have 60 days to submit their comments to FMCSA. TCA will be filing supportive comments and we encourage all of our members who wish to supply their own data to comment as well.
If approved, pilot program participants would receive a waiver from the current HOS regulations and be given the option to split their 10 hours of sleeper berth time into two periods, with neither period being less than 4 hours. This would allow the driver to use the 6/4 and 5/5 split, and drivers would be asked to participate for between 6 and 12 months. According to the notice, FMCSA would recruit motor carriers and drivers who operate trucks equipped with sleeper berths and who regularly use the sleeper berth provision. Between 200 and 400 study group drivers from small, medium, and large carriers, as well as team drivers and owner-operators, would be invited to participate.
TCA is pleased that FMCSA is moving forward with establishing this pilot program and we commend the Agency for taking an important step toward collecting the necessary data to justify this regulatory change. In our 2019 comments to FMCSA regarding its proposed HOS changes, which went into effect on September 29, 2020, TCA noted that this sort of pilot program is the only way for data on the 6/4 and 5/5 split to be obtained. The last time drivers were allowed to utilize these splits roughly 15 years ago, the industry was operating under paper logs, which were easily falsifiable.
When FMCSA began the process to implement HOS changes, it dropped its plans for a similar sleeper berth pilot program, stating that it already had the data it needed to move forward with its proposal. At the time, TCA was encouraged by this move, with the understanding that the Agency would pursue full flexibility through the rulemaking. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and FMCSA only adopted 7/3 and 8/2 splits in the Final Rule.
Now, we are thrilled by the notion that the Agency sees the need for this data, and we hope that the proposed pilot program will be fully approved. There is some concern that the incoming Biden Administration will impose extra scrutiny on all of FMCSA’s pending proposals, including pilot programs such as this one. However, we urge the incoming regulators to place a high value on all efforts to collect information from industry, as true data-driven proposals are the only way to establish regulations that will provide the necessary flexibility for industry, maintain the highest level of safety, and withstand the test of time. TCA looks forward to working with the Biden Administration, Transportation Secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg, and the new FMCSA Administrator as they move forward with finalizing proposals that will prove invaluable for all trucking industry stakeholders in the years ahead.