Split sleeper berth time, what does it look like?

September 5, 2019

Jami Jones

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Among the changes proposed to the hours-of-service regulations is to return to being allowed to split sleeper berth time.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s notice of proposed rulemaking published on Aug. 22 proposed to resurrect flexibility drivers once had in dividing time in the sleeper berth.

Currently, and in the proposal, drivers are required to take 10 hours of off-duty time. Right now, that time can be taken in one 10-hour stretch or split. Drivers are only allowed to split sleeper berth time into one eight-hour period and a second two-hour period. The eight must be taken in the sleeper, but the two can be taken off-duty, and for team drivers that off-duty time can be in the jump seat.

As proposed, FMCSA is seeking comments on the ability to split the sleeper berth time with some more flexibility. Instead of a rigid 8/2 split, FMCSA is proposing to let drivers split one period between seven and eight hours. The second period must then be between two and three hours. For ease, the agency is basically proposing to add a 7/3 split back into the mix.

Split-duty provision

The notice of proposed rulemaking had a second option built in for flexibility, the split-duty provision. That is the one that allows an off-duty period during the day of up to three hours to that pauses the 14-hour on-duty clock.

The key to that proposed break is what follows. If a driver does pause the on-duty clock for one period of more than three hours, a 10-hour break must follow.

That means you cannot combine the split-sleeper berth provision with the split-duty provision. At the least if you started the day with part of a split sleeper berth rest period and owe the second one, you would instead owe 10 if you pause the 14-hour on-duty clock during the day.

OOIDA support

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been vocal in its support of FMCSA’s attempt to build flexibility back into the rigid hours-of-service regulations.

Initially prompted by a petition from OOIDA, FMCSA proposed a rulemaking on hours-of-service reform that promises to give truck drivers more flexibility.

“I spent nearly 25 years driving truck, so I’m qualified to say that the existing hours-of-service regulations are ‘misguided,’ to put it politely,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh said. “Administrator Martinez committed to working with OOIDA to address this issue, and he’s following through on it. Not only do we want to express our sincere thanks to him and his team, but we also want to thank our members for everything they’ve done to get us to this point. In this case, persistence has paid off, and we’re going to do everything we can to get these changes across the finish line.”

The agency is accepting comments on the proposal through Oct. 7. Drivers can file comments online here.

Editor’s note: Land Line is examining each of the changes in FMCSA’s notice of proposed rulemaking on hours of service. Previously, Land Line wrote about proposed changes for rest breaks, short haul operations and adverse driving conditions.

Jami Jones

Jami Jones has been in journalism since 1991 – focused on the trucking industry since 2000. Whether judging Shell SuperRigs or writing hard-hitting analyses, she covers trucking from lug nuts to legislation – always with the trucker in mind.