- The FMCSA is proposing a pilot to test additional options for splitting sleeper-berth time under HOS, the agency announced last week. The public will have 60 days to comment, after it is published in the Federal Register.
- The agency's new initiative would pilot a 6/4 split and a 5/5 split. Currently, drivers can use the sleeper-berth exception for an 8/2 split or a 7/3 split, neither counting against the 14‑hour window.
- Carriers and drivers would have to apply to be part of the pilot; the FMCSA estimated it will need between 200 and 400 participants, according to the proposal.
While the sleeper-berth exception under the HOS final rule has been a welcomed change for the industry, regulations that add break options for drivers are typically met with opposition from safety groups.
Some fleets have also found sleeper-berth splits confusing to calculate, and additional splits would require another round of compliance training for drivers. An ELD will take care of the calculations for many carriers. But some stakeholders had lingering questions in December on how to avoid violations while using a split.
Still, the industry has urged more flexible sleeper-berth regulations for years. "Many of the comments and input received in other forums asked for additional flexibilities beyond a 7/3 split," the FMCSA said, referring to the public-comment period for the HOS final rule.
When the 8/2 and 7/3 splits were codified in the HOS final rule, many stakeholders were relieved. One trucking executive said it could yield the most benefit, out of all the changes. "Drivers had to operate when they were tired and weren’t able to stop when needed," under the old rule, Phil Byrd, CEO of Bulldog Hiway Express, said last year.
Flexibility is the primary selling point of additional sleeper-berth options, according to the FMCSA and supporters of the pilot.
"We have strongly advocated for FMCSA to take this approach," the Truckload Carriers Association posted on LinkedIn, adding the flexibility could help prevent fatigue and increase safety.
In contrast, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, commonly a critic of HOS regulations, said in a statement that more split options would "eviscerate safeguards that enable drivers using a sleeper berth to have the opportunity to get consolidated rest."
The FMCSA said this pilot program is partly based on a joint proposal that the American Trucking Associations and the Minnesota Trucking Association submitted in December 2013.
The purpose of the pilot is to collect data to address all sides of the argument: Do the additional sleeper-berth options benefit drivers while upholding safety?
The FMCSA has solicited information on this topic before. In 2017, the agency proposed a different version of a sleeper-berth pilot but put it on the back burner and focused on the HOS final rule. Instead, the FMCSA asked stakeholders for data on using a 6/4 or 5/5 split. Receiving none, the agency is now moving to collect data.
According to the proposal, the FMCSA would gather information from record of duty status data, data from video-based onboarding monitoring and reporting systems, roadside violation data, subjective sleepiness ratings, sleep logs and other methods.