In January, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced they will be exploring further flexibility for team drivers by evaluating 6/4 and 5/5 sleeper berth split options in a new pilot program.
According to FMCSA Deputy Administrator, Wiley Deck, “gathering more data on split-sleeper flexibility will benefit all CMV stakeholders.”
Last year, the hours-of-service rules were revised to allow team drivers to choose to spend only seven hours in the sleeper berth instead of eight as drivers can split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 or a 7/3 split.
While this did not change the 14-hour driving window, the FMCSA hopes this will reduce driver temptations to speed or operate unsafely because their workday is ending.
“FMCSA continues to explore ways to provide flexibility for drivers, while maintaining safety on our roadways. This proposed pilot program will provide needed data and feedback for the agency to use now and in the future,” said Deck.
As part of the pilot program, FMCSA will collect driver metrics, such as crashes, fatigue levels, caffeine consumption and duty status for the duration of the study and analyze participants’ safety performance, but the data collected does not guarantee the agency will go forward with the proposed rulemaking.
FMCSA will provide systems and devices to participants for:
- Driver record of duty status
- Video-based monitoring system
- Roadside violations data
- Wrist actigraphy data to evaluate sleep and wake times
- Psychomotor vigilance test data for driver’s behavioral alertness based on reaction times
- Subjective sleep ratings to measure driver fatigue levels
- Driver sleep logs
The program, of around 200-400 drivers from all fleet sizes, will start with 90 days using the current HOS regulations followed by at least 6 to 12 months to collect data from driver participants operating under a temporary exemption from current HOS and allowed to split time as 6/4 and 5/5.
While we wait over a year for the data to be collected and analyzed, it begs the question of why not just use a simpler solution and do what the proposed rule changes for the last three years has included—the use of the sleeper berth to stop the 14-hour clock for up to three hours.
According to one driver, “Instead, the FMCSA went with the split sleeper berth option for flexibility. The problem with that is figuring the remaining available hours from the first rest period. It is all very confusing and the ELD system we use does not automatically calculate those hours. The driver shows HOS violations until the ten hours is met. Now they want to waste money on the 6/4 and 5/5 split? In typical government fashion they are wasting money on studies and making it more difficult than it needs to be. Simply stop the clock when in the sleeper berth for up to three hours. Simple.”
Only time, and the data collected, will tell if more flexibility will come to the split sleeper berth hours-of-service rules.