Owner Operators - The Grapevine

New Sleeper Berth Rules


By Wayne Schooling

Everybody's been calling on the new hours. Among the changes in the 2005 rules, perhaps the most significant--and most confusing--relates to the split-sleeper option. That's the option that allows a driver to split his/her required 10 consecutive hours of rest into two separate, non-consecutive breaks. Though the split-sleeper option is still an option (following October 1st) for both teams and individual drivers, the requirements have changed significantly--so much, in fact, that many are wondering if they should continue using the option at all.

Under the 2003 rules, a driver could split his/her time into any combination of two breaks that added up to 10 hours, so long as the breaks were at least two hours long. These breaks had to be spent entirely in the berth, but they were excluded from the 14-hour limit.

Under the 2005 rules, you still need two breaks that add up to 10 hours. But, recognizing that drivers need 7 to 8 hours of continuous sleep to beat fatigue, the rules require one of the two breaks to be at least 8 continuous hours. Like the 2003 rules, this break must be spent entirely in the sleeper berth and it will still be excluded from the 14-hour limit. The other break must be at least two hours long (this is so that the driver gets the required 10 total hours of rest), but this break can be spent off duty, in the sleeper berth, or any combination of the two. In addition, this shorter break is always included in the 14-hour limit, no matter where it is spent (i.e. it always counts against the driver, even if it is spent in the sleeper berth).

Calculating Available Hours

Because one of the two breaks will count against the driver's 14-hour limit, the new rules change the way you calculate available hours after a break. As under the 2003 rules, once you have completed two qualifying rest breaks that add up to 10 hours (one being at least 8 hours in a sleeper berth), you do not gain back a full 11 driving hours and 14 on-duty hours. Rather, following the second rest break, hours available under the 11- and 14-hour rules must be recalculated from the end of the first of the two breaks.

Examples:

Suppose a driver named Smith takes 10 hours off and starts driving. He drives for 6 hours and then decides to take a 2 hour nap. Those 2 hours will count against his 14 hour limit no matter where he takes them (off duty and/or sleeper). After his nap, he drives for his remaining 5 hours and is then at hour 13 out of 14 (6+2+5=13). To gain time back, Smith may either:

Go off duty and/or in the sleeper for 10 consecutive hours; or
Go into the sleeper berth for only 8 hours

If he chooses to take 10 hours off, he will gain a full 11 and 14 hours. Suppose he chooses an 8-hour sleeper berth. How much driving and on-duty time does he have remaining at the end of that break? We start counting from the end of the first break (the 2 hour nap), and arrive at the following numbers:

Driving time: 11 - 5 hours driving after the 2 hour nap = 6 hours remaining.
Duty time: 14 - 5 hours spent after the 2 hour nap = 9 hours remaining.
Driver Smith starts driving again.

Suppose he uses his remaining 6 hours of driving time, has another 2 hours on duty (not driving), and wants to return to driving. At this point, he has used up his 11 hours of driving time and is at hour 13 of 14 available. To gain back driving time, Smith can either:
Go of duty and/or in the sleeper for 10 consecutive hours; or
Take another 2-hour break (off duty and/or sleeper).

If he chooses the 2-hour break, how much time will he have available? Again, we start counting from the end of the first break in this next combination of breaks (the 8 hour sleeper period), and arrive at the following numbers:
Driving time: 11 - 6 hours driving = 5 hours remaining.
Duty time: 14 - 6 hours driving - 2 hours on duty - 2 hours off duty = 4 hours.
Therefore, Smith can drive any part of the upcoming 4 hour period. Suppose he drives for 4 hours. To do more driving, he has the same choice to make as before: go back into the sleeper for 8 consecutive hours or go off duty and/or into the sleeper for 10.

Suppose Smith chooses to sleep for 8 hours, but in the middle of his break goes into a truck stop for half an hour. When he completes his break, can he drive? The answer is NO, because he did not get 8 consecutive hours in the berth, so the entire 8 1/2 hour break counts against his 14 hour limit.

Single Sleeper Periods

Under the new rules, in contrast to the 2003 rules, a driver can use a single sleeper period to extend the 14 hour limit. That sleeper period, however, must be 8 consecutive hours long. If you take a 2-hour nap while your truck is unloaded, that time will always count against the 14 hour limit, even if you go back into the sleeper for 8 hours later in the day.

Enforcement

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is providing a "transition period" for compliance and enforcement through the end of 2005. During the remaining months, the FMCSA says it will monitor carriers for violations of the new hours-of-service rules and pursue enforcement action when necessary.

Send your questions to Wayne Schooling at NorthAmerican Transportation Association, 2533 N. Carson Street, Suite 346, Carson City, NV 89706-0147.

The NTA is a premier Nationwide Transportation Benefits Association established to provide services, benefits and information to private fleets, trucking companies and owner-operators. We provide our members with more FREE services and benefits than any other association. For more information or details call (562) 279-0557 in California or 800-805-0040, or you can email me at wayne@ntassoc.com. Remember, tell those who doubt your profession, "If you've got it...A TRUCKER BROUGHT IT!" Until next month, "Drive safely, drive smart!"