FMCSA Could Soon Study These Two Split Sleeper-Berth Exceptions
Washington D.C. – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) could soon study two split sleeper-berth exceptions, according to the Agency’s Acting Director.
Speaking at the Truckload Carriers Association’s (TCA) Virtual Safety & Security Conference last month, Jim Mullen, Acting Administrator of the FMCSA, told stakeholders the Agency continues to look for ways to provide flexibility in the hours of service (HOS) regulations.
The Agency unveiled its HOS final rule in May of this year after first undertaking the issue in an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) in August 2018.
Months and months of debate, 5,200 public comments, and five public listening sessions later, the Agency issued four major changes to HOS regulations.
One of those changes was to modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 split, or a 7/3 split — with neither period counting against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.
While most stakeholders agreed the change will provide additional flexibility, groups such as the Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA) and TruckerNation were not completely satisfied.
Each petitioned the FMCSA during the rulemaking process to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty in more combinations than just 8/2 or 7/3.
Specifically, OOIDA asked the Agency to allow drivers to split it 5/5 or 6/4.
TruckerNation asked the FMCSA to allow drivers to split the 10-hour break “as many times as necessary at the driver’s discretion and with a minimum of 3 consecutive hours for any break time, to equal 10 total hours of break time, so long as the time is accurately logged as off-duty.”
Additionally, TruckerNation stipulated that “any 3-consecutive hour off duty breaks that are taken would be subtracted from driver’s required 10-hour off duty break required each day.”
During his appearance at TCA’s virtual meeting, Acting Administrator Mullen was asked if the door is closed on these proposals.
“The door is certainly not shut to that,” Mullen responded. “An option is to do a pilot program on allowing 6/4 and 5/5 and study it that way.”
Mullen explained the Agency ultimately chose not to include the 5/5 or 6/4 splits because sleep studies presented during the rulemaking process determined people require at least six hours of restorative sleep.
However, he signaled the Agency could soon initiate a pilot program to study the issue further.
“A pilot program would probably be the best way to test the water to see what the affects are,” he said.
The HOS final rule, which is set to take effect September 29, has already come under attack.
As Transportation Nation Network (TNN) reported last week, the rule is being challenged by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and multiple safety groups.
The Teamsters filed a Petition for Reconsideration with the FMCSA to stay the effective date of the new HOS rule until it can be reviewed further.
The 67-page petition, which was obtained by TNN, argues the “Final Rule is not in the public interest” and “violates the Agency’s duty to place public safety as its highest priority.”
Click HERE to read more on the Teamster’s challenge.
TransportationNation.com will continue to bring you the latest on these developments.
Photo courtesy Taylor Barker