Split sleeper berth options should be increased, OOIDA says

October 17, 2019

Mark Schremmer

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Truck drivers should be given more split sleeper berth options, the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association said in its comments regarding FMCSA’s plan for hours-of-service reform.

On Oct. 15, OOIDA submitted 15 pages of comments regarding FMCSA’s notice of proposed rulemaking for hours-of-service regulations.

One section of the comments focused on FMCSA’s proposal to modify the sleeper berth requirements to allow drivers to take a split sleeper berth option of 7/3 in addition to current splits of 10/0 and 8/2.

More options

OOIDA said it supports the addition of a 7/3 split but would like for drivers to be given even more options.

“Beyond expanding the split sleeper provision to 7/3, FMCSA should also include 6/4 and 5/5 splits in any final rulemaking,” OOIDA wrote in formal comments signed by President and CEO Todd Spencer. “These splits would increase flexibility, allowing drivers to increase their productivity without compromising safety.

“In fact, these splits would help to increase both safety and health and wellness. The truth is that not all drivers are able to sleep eight or 10 hours at a time. Several members stated that they struggle to sleep more than six hours. Thus, allowing them to split their sleeper time more efficiently will allow them to gain more adequate rest, resulting in increased alertness and better driver performance.”

Survey results

According to a survey conducted by the OOIDA Foundation, 85% of OOIDA members favored a possible 6/4 or 5/5 split.

Before 2005, truck drivers were allowed to split their off-duty time into two five-hour periods.

“The 5/5 split was safer and more efficient, not only for team-driving operations but for single truckers as well,” OOIDA wrote. “Many expressed how they are more stressed under the current 8/2 split as it limits flexibility. One driver said, ‘8/2 is not flexible enough for me to be efficient. If I was tired or didn’t want to get stuck in rush-hour traffic (under the 5/5 split), I would stop and sleep. I could then get up and still get to my destination on time. I was refreshed, had less traffic congestion and had less stress fighting a time clock.’”

Truckers told the OOIDA Foundation that the 5/5 split helped them avoid congestion by allowing them to better plan their day and that it also decreased fatigue by allowing them to separate their drive time into shorter shifts.

“The 5/5 was great, especially for teams, but, even as a single. It is how I operated most of the time,” one member said in the survey. “It allowed me to avoid traffic, so I was able to accomplish more with fewer hours worked. Since it was taken away, I have stopped team driving. I find it impossible to drive 8-10 hours at a time and certainly can’t spend 10 hours in a sleeper getting meaningful rest.”

Research

OOIDA cited a 2012 FMCSA report authored by Gregory Belenky, a research professor at Washington State University-Spokane, where he launched the Sleep and Performance Research Center, that stated a more flexible sleeper berth rule could provide benefits in the form of increased total sleep and decreased sleepiness.

“Other studies have confirmed that there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for restorative sleep,” OOIDA wrote. “Sleep requirements are highly individualized and depend on age, weight, physiology, genetic makeup, driver health, eating habits, activity levels during waking hours, and quality of the sleep. This should result in a rule that recognizes this reality and allows individual drivers to structure their sleep time to effectively satisfy their particular needs without an arbitrary mandate.”

Parking problem

The Association also said that additional split sleeper options could help alleviate the ongoing truck parking problem.

“According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 75% of truck drivers regularly experience problems finding a safe parking location when rest is needed, with 90% struggling to find parking during night hours, when demand is highest,” OOIDA wrote. “A final hours-of-service rule that includes 6/4 and 5/5 splits could help reduce the amount of drivers looking for parking spots during night hours.”

FMCSA will accept comments from the public on its hours-of-service proposal until Oct. 21. Comments can be made at the Regulations.gov website by using docket number FMCSA-2018-0248.

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Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.