Split Sleeper Berth Rules and Provisions: Keep Your Fleet Drivers Safe, Compliant, and on the Road

As a fleet safety manager, you are not only responsible for keeping your commercial delivery vehicles on the road, fully maintained and scheduled for success, but also for the health and well-being of your drivers.

Sure, today’s video telematics and dash cam solutions can make your job easier, but it’s also your job to remain up-to-date on changing driver rules imposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Several new requirements, known as sleeper berth rules, were updated by FMCSA in mid-2020. Here's what you need to know to stay compliant.

What are Sleeper Berth Rules?

On June 1st, 2020, the FMCSA published an update to their HOS (Hours of Service) rule—an integral part of new sleeper berth rules—to make commercial fleet drivers safer when on the road. These new provisions are part of the longstanding hours of service rule that was established in 1937.

In a nutshell, both HOS and sleeper berth rules were created to ensure that drivers have adequate rest between long driving shifts. To comply, fleet managers must make sure their drivers operate under the following guidelines set forth for how sleeper berth time is calculated under current provisions.

Sleeper Berth Rules and Compliance Guidelines:

  • Cargo carrying fleet drivers (NOTE: See the last bullet point in this bulleted section for passenger-carrying drivers) may only drive a maximum of 11-hours (in one 14-hour period), with a minimum of 10-hours of off-duty time in between driving.
  • No driver is permitted to begin any new shift until 10-hours of off/rest time has been reached. Keep in mind that drivers are also required to take a 30-minute break every 8 hours on the road.
  • The 60/70 hour driving limit requires that any driver who is on the road for 60-hours in a rolling 7-day period or 70-hours in a rolling 8-day period takes a mandatory break. When drivers have reached these established limits, they are required to take a 34-hour break between any driving shifts.
  •  Once the 34-hour rest period has been completed, drivers can do what is referred to as a “34-hour restart” and resume a new driving schedule that remains compliant. 

Next up, the Split Sleeper Berth rule.

The split sleeper berth rule allows drivers to split the required 10-hour off-duty driving rule into two shifts. This rule helps drivers better manage their on-road schedule by including rest breaks that still comply with mandatory rest time regulations.

One final update to this requirement is something known as the sleeper berth exception rule. With this recent update, drivers can use the DOTs HOS (Dept. of Transportation, Hours of Service) split break with either 7 hours on / 3 hours off or 8 hours on /2 hours off the road.

For example: let’s say that a driver clock in at 8:00 p.m., but doesn’t begin driving until 11:00 p.m. They drive until 3:00 a.m. and then spend 8 hours in the sleeping berth, resuming their driving at 11:00 a.m. the following morning.

In this scenario, the 8-hours spent in the sleeping berth DO NOT count as part of their 14-hour window, meaning that the driver has only used 7-hours of their 14-hour allotment (3-hours on shift before driving and 4-hours behind the wheel). They could then drive from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and still remain in compliance of the 14-hour rule.

Further Consideration for the Split Berth Rule

Any time spent in an unloading zone (even if the facility is closed and won’t reopen until the next day) counts towards the 14-hour window. This is where the split sleeper berth rule would be beneficial, as any period spent in the sleeper berth of at least 8-hours DOES NOT count towards the 14-hour window when paired with appropriate hours as outlined in HOS regulations.

Property/Cargo Carrying vs. Passenger Carrying Drivers

As a property carrying driver, the rules we stated in the sections above are accurate (11-hours total drive time with necessary breaks and at least 10-hours of rest between shifts), but for passenger carrying drivers the rules are slightly modified.

Instead of an 11-hour driving limit, passenger carrying drivers are only allowed shifts of 10 hours or less after at least 8-hours of off-duty time. In addition, passenger carrying drivers may not drive after being on duty for 15-hours following any 8 consecutive hours off-duty.

How is On-Duty Drive Time Defined?

On-duty drive time is defined as the time when the driver is not encumbered by any duty relating to the vehicle, passengers, or cargo they are transporting. To qualify as “off-duty” time, drivers must have the ability to pursue any activity of their choosing with no requirement to maintain and/or operate the vehicle or establish and report on the control of passengers or any other cargo or belongings.

Adverse Driving Conditions and Hours of Service/Sleeper Berth Rules

When unexpected or adverse driving conditions are present, there is another provision in the hours of service/sleeper berth rule. Drivers carrying cargo may add up to an additional 2-hours to their drive time to make up for what would have been possible under normal driving conditions.

While adverse conditions are defined as weather events, such as fog, snow or other inclement weather, the rule also extends to road closures due to accidents or other incidents that are beyond the driver’s control. Keep in mind that poor planning or congested traffic (i.e., rush hour) are not considered adverse conditions and the rule DOES NOT apply.

Related: 2020 DOT Hours of Operation Exemptions

 

The More You Know, The Further Your Drivers Will Go!

While HOS/DOT sleeper berth rules may seem daunting, they will become second nature once you have implemented all mandatory conditions and considerations into your fleet’s normal scheduling, fleet tracking, and driver routines.

To help you and your drivers be safe, compliant and ready to deliver to your customers, Lytx’s account managers are available to answer any questions you may have on this ever-evolving topic.

Stay tuned for additional updates as the FMCSA or DOT make modifications to both hours or service or sleeper berth rules.

To learn more, or to connect with a Lytx representative about our fleet management solutions, complete the form on this page.

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