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Regulators propose more sleeper berth flexibility

FMCSA to evaluate allowing drivers to have 6/4 and 5/5 split rest periods

FMCSA looking for 200-400 drivers for sleeper berth project. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is looking for drivers to participate in a proposed pilot program to evaluate splitting the 10-hour sleeper berth rest time into 6/4 and 5/5 periods.

According to the proposal announced on Thursday, which will be open to comments for 60 days after publishing in the Federal Register, FMCSA wants to recruit 200 to 400 commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders who regularly use the sleeper berth provision. The agency wants to include drivers from small, medium and large carriers as well as team drivers and owner-operators.

“FMCSA continues to explore ways to provide flexibility for drivers, while maintaining safety on our roadways,” said FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck. “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 [commercial motor vehicle] stakeholders.”

The changes to trucking hours-of-service (HOS) regulations that went into effect in September included modifying the sleeper berth provision to allow drivers to meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement by spending at least seven, rather than at least eight hours (7/2 and 8/2 split) of that period in the berth and a minimum off-duty period of at least two hours spent inside or outside the berth.

During the comment period leading up to the changes, FMCSA also asked for input on potential split periods of 6/4 or 5/5. “The Agency did not receive any additional data or studies regarding these options, so this new pilot program will work to gather this additional data,” FMCSA stated. “As the lead federal agency responsible for America’s CMV safety and operations, FMCSA is the entity best positioned to collect empirical data on potential split sleeper periods.”

Both motor carriers and organized labor have supported efforts to explore additional options. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters stated that most of its team drivers “preferred having more flexibility in the time that they can obtain restorative rest periods,” according to FMCSA.

To qualify for the pilot as proposed, carriers would have to meet the following criteria:

  1. Must have proper operating authority and registration.
  2. Must have the minimum levels of financial responsibility, if applicable.
  3. Must not be a high- or moderate-risk carrier, as defined by FMCSA.
  4. Must not have a conditional or unsatisfactory safety rating.
  5. Must not have any enforcement actions within the past three years.
  6. Must not have a driver Out of Service (OOS) rate above the national average.
  7. Must not have a vehicle OOS rate above the national average.

“The Agency is proposing that drivers be allowed to participate for between 6 and 12 months and will finalize these details in future notices. Following study enrollment, drivers would be able to use split or consolidated sleep schedules as they choose (within study parameters), but they must still abide by all other regulations,” FMCSA stated.

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One Comment

  1. MarcK

    Drivers should have a solid 8-hours of rest. The 6-4 and 5-5 concept provides drivers who are not fully rested and susceptable to errors in the performance of their work. I never had sleepers on my power units and allowed my drivers to sleep in motels at our expense. They were given a performance schedule and I would say they met this schedule 95% of the time. Weather and other issues impacted their performance 5% of the time.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.