FMCSA proposes pilot program to test splitting sleeper berth time

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 6/6/2017

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration appears to be opening up to the possibility that splitting up off-duty sleeper time to fit a driver’s personal need may not be such a bad thing.

Since 2005, truckers who want to split up their 10 hours of off-duty time have been limited two periods with one being at least eight hours long. The 8-and-2 split, as drivers began referring to it was met with swift and loud criticism.

The change marked a significant clampdown on the flexibility drivers had under the previous versions of the hours-of-service regulations. Before the 2005 version was rolled out, drivers who wanted to split up their sleeper berth time could choose how they wanted to take it.

Team drivers commonly used the split in 5-and-5 or 6-and-4 configurations. Solo drivers spoke of the ability to split the time and take an extended break to let rush hour clear in a metro area.

The reduction in flexibility was one of many issues that were taken to the listening sessions held by FMCSA over the next several years. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association pressed the agency to prove, through research, that the change was warranted.

The agency relented in 2010 and began a study into any negative affect on driver fatigue when drivers opted to split their sleeper berth time. The study ultimately found that splitting sleeper berth time that included an overnight period had less of an effect on causing fatigue than day sleeping.

The agency announced on Tuesday, June 6, in a Federal Register notice, that it is proposing a pilot program that would allow drivers to split their off-duty sleeper berth time. The agency proposes to recruit approximately 200 drivers for the study.

The program will not allow a portion of the split to be less than three hours, meaning drivers could take a 7-and-3, 6-and-4 or 5-and-5 split. Participants will consent to data collection that includes electronic log data and wrist actigraphy data to monitor sleep durations. They will also be required to take alertness tests at predetermined intervals to monitor alertness.

The pilot program could last up to three years for sufficient data collection.

FMCSA will accept comments on the proposed pilot program for 60 days. To submit comments click here.

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