FMCSA Amends HOS Sleeper Berth Provision

| April 07, 2005

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has amended the final hours-of-service rule to clarify some areas truckers have found confusing.

The Sept. 30 Federal Register carried the agency’s technical amendments to the HOS rule that is effective Jan. 4. FMCSA stated that the trucking industry had found the new rule regarding time spent in sleeper berths especially confusing when calculating work and off-duty time.

Currently, off-duty time, including sleeper berth time, is not included in calculating the 15-hour on-duty limit.

Beginning Jan. 4, when a trucker’s workday drops to a 14-hour maximum, some sleeper berth periods will be counted as on-duty. However, if the driver spends at least two two-hour periods in the sleeper berth, that does not have to be counted as on-duty.

Two areas not covered clearly in the April HOS rule were off-duty time out of the sleeper berth and sleeper berth periods of less than two hours. These time periods do not qualify for exclusion and must be counted when calculating on-duty time.

The agency clarified situations where the driver takes more than three or more sleeper berth periods, each of which are at least two hours long.

The amended rule states that any two sleeper-berth periods totaling 10 hours may be used in calculating the 10-hour off-duty period. Any remaining sleeper-berth periods of two hours or more must be included in calculating the 14-hour on-duty time limit.

Officials provided this example: A trucker is off-duty for 10 hours before driving four hours, followed by two hours in the sleeper berth. Then the driver drives for another three hours, spends three more hours in the sleeper berth, drives for five hours and then spends seven hours in the sleeper berth.

The amended rule spells out that the second and third periods in the sleeper meet the off duty requirement because they total 10 hours. The remaining first sleeper berth period would have to be included in on-duty time.

The changes also address off-duty sleeper berth time in operations at natural gas or oil well-locations. A 40-year-old rule allows them to accumulate the currently required eight hours off-duty in two shifts, as long as both shifts are at least two hours long in sleeper berths or “other sleeping accommodations at a natural gas or oil well location.”

The final rule clarified that these drivers must take 10 rather than eight hours off duty and may continue to accumulate their off-duty time in two periods. The amended rule explains that these periods may be taken in sleeper berths, other sleeping accommodations, or both.

Finally, the amended rule deals with the provision for short-haul drivers, intended to allow them one 16-hour on-duty limit in a seven-day period.

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