When FMCSA finalized changes to the Hours of Service rules in May 2020, some industry stakeholders felt the split sleeper berth rule change didn’t go far enough. They longed for a more simple, pre-2003 time when splitting sleeper berth time was easy and brought great flexibility to trucking operations. Well, after recent conversations with FMCSA staff, and closer examination of the regulatory language, STC thinks the industry shouldn’t be disappointed.
Here’s our take, broken down as simply as possible. Law enforcement will be looking at two things when searching for violations of the sleeper berth rules: 1) adding the two off-duty rest periods together to make sure they amount to at least 10 hours of rest (keep in mind the longer period must be in sleeper and be at least 7 hours), and 2) adding the work periods immediately before and immediately after each rest period to verify there is no more than 11 hours of driving time or 14 hours of work. If a driver has only one rest period of at least two hours at the time of inspection, it will be assumed a second rest break is coming, and calculations will be conducted as described above. As long as the rest periods add to at least 10, and the work periods before and after each break don’t add up to a violation, the driver is good. Easy
This opens significant opportunity for drivers to rest while sleepy and drive while alert and adds precisely the flexibility the industry was requesting. As FMCSA leadership has mentioned publicly, this flexibility essentially allows for the ‘split duty day’ (pausing the 14-hour running clock with one off-duty period of up to 3 hours) by sleeper cab drivers that was not officially included in the final HOS rule changes.
Nearly 50% of drivers operate a vehicle with a sleeper berth. Half of the industry is going to be pleasantly surprised when they dig into these new rules and discover wide latitude to rest while sleepy and drive while alert. FMCSA listened to industry concerns and delivered. Be on the lookout for upcoming FMCSA logbook examples of how the split sleeper berth rules can be used (including how the split duty day is possible).