The U.S. Dept. of Transportation has announced a “Flexible Sleeper Berth Pilot Program” which will allow truckers to split up their off-duty sleeper berth time as they choose.

According to the FMCSA notice, 240 participating drivers will be “allowed to use any combination of split sleeper periods, totaling 10 hours,” instead of just the 10-hour block or 8/2 split under current Hours of Service regulations.

The FMCSA notice reads as follow:

The purpose of this pilot program is to examine whether regulatory flexibility related to the sleeper berth provision could be used to improve driver rest and alertness. Currently, any interstate driver who (1) operates a property-carrying CMV equipped with a sleeper berth, and (2) uses the sleeper berth provision, must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two, before returning to on-duty status. The pilot program would give participating drivers a temporary exemption from this requirement for consolidated sleeper berth time, within parameters specified by the Agency. For study purposes, drivers would be allowed to split their sleep into no more than two sleeper berth segments. Current regulations allow drivers to use one 10 hour period, or splits of 9 and 1 hours or 8 and 2 hours. Drivers operating under the exemption for this study would be allowed to use any combination of split sleeper periods, totaling 10 hours, with neither period being less than 3 hours, (4) allowing for the driver to use splits of 3 and 7 hours, 4 and 6 hours, or two 5 hour periods. Following study enrollment, drivers would be able to use split or consolidated sleep schedules as they choose (within study parameters), but they must still meet the daily minimum rest requirements.

Using this control group, the agency will gather information from ELDs, monitoring systems like video recorders, and roadside inspections, as well as other tests designed to test the wakefulness of the truck driver, such as wrist actigraphy and psychomotor vigilance tests.

Subjective sleepiness ratings will also be recorded by the drivers themselves in their sleep logs.

The agency will use the information collected to determine whether the change to Hours of Service regulations would be safe to roll out on a larger scale.

The FMCSA has opened the proposal for public comments and many drivers have started to chime in with support.

“All of this research should have been done before mandating the ELD’s. We used this split sleeper birth before and it was great. Politicians and Bureaucrats are always making decisions about something they have no experience in.” commented truck driver Ray Spiker.

“Been a driver for over 40 years now and up until the latest changes, [I] have always used those kinds of splits for sleep and or a nap during certain hours to miss rush hour traffic,” trucker Mark D said of the study.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction. Currently the HOS rules penalize a driver for taking a break during the day. The ability to split the sleeper berth is advocating for the driver to have the ability to break when he/she needs the rest, without the penalization of losing work time. The current HOS rules are antiquated, and are in need of review” truck driver Michael Gehl commented.

You can view additional comments, as well as leave your own opinion for review, using Docket ID: FMCSA-2016-0394 on the website.