New Split Sleeper Berth Pilot Program Proposed by FMCSA
Prior to 2005, Drivers who wanted to split up their sleeper berth time could choose how they wanted to take it. Since then, truckers who want to use the split sleeper berth provision have been limited to two periods with one being at least eight hours long. The 8-and-2 split, marked a significant clampdown on the flexibility drivers had under the previous versions of the hours-of-service regulations.
According to FMCSA, during listening sessions for the hours-of-service (HOS) rulemaking, many drivers indicated that they would like some regulatory flexibility to be able to sleep when they become tired or when traffic is congested that the current rules do not allow.
Additionally, scientific literature suggests that statutory or regulatory limitations on work hours may not be sufficient to prevent worker fatigue. The FMCSA began a study in 2010 into any negative effect on driver fatigue when drivers opted to split their sleeper berth time.
Results indicate that daytime consolidated sleep leads to less total sleep time, increased driver sleepiness, and increased blood glucose and testosterone levels by work week’s end. Results for split-sleep conditions indicate that when consolidated nighttime sleep is not possible, split-sleep is preferable to consolidated daytime sleep.
This combination of research and industry feedback helped spur the current sleeper berth and split-sleep pilot study.
What is the new Flexible Sleeper Berth Pilot Program?
The Flexible Sleeper Berth Pilot Program is a “field operational test” allowing those involved in the test to have regulatory flexibility in the HOS provisions. Carriers that would like flexibility with the sleeper berth provision will be identified and participate in this study.
The goal of the Flexible Sleeper Berth Pilot Program, according to FMCSA, is to conduct a study to demonstrate how split-sleep in combination with the North American Fatigue Management Program could be used to improve driver rest and alertness.
During the study, there will be limits on the use of split-sleep for team driving and driver alertness and changes in health metrics will be measured. 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.
The study team will collect data on a minimum of 50 drivers per 90-day participation cycle. To achieve the goal of 200 participants, the study team will collect data on five 90-day cycles. The pilot program could last up to three years for sufficient data collection.