The private carrier of snack maker McKee Foods has been granted an extension to its 2015-granted waiver allowing the carriers’ drivers to split their 10 required sleeper berth hours into segments, rather than having to take them consecutively or in the limited 8/2 split.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced last March it had granted McKee a waiver to allow some of its drivers to use either 5/5, 4/6 or 3/7 splits to satisfy their federally required 10 sleeper berth hours per day.
The extension, announced this week by FMCSA, tacks on an extra four years to McKee’s exemption, pushing its expiration to March 2020. The extension comes pursuant to a provision in the FAST Act, which required all FMCSA-issued hours exemptions in place at the time of the law’s enactment to be extended to five total years.
The waiver applies to team drivers for McKee who run electronic logging devices, have at least 26 hours of off-duty home time from Friday night to Saturday night each week and are limited to 10 hours of driving time per day. The agency said last year when granting McKee’s exemption that it would give the DOT “real-world context over a substantial period” to “observe the effects of split sleep.”
By the agency’s own research, however, truck operators who use split sleeper berth periods show no greater levels of fatigue or unsafe driving habits than those who kept 10 consecutive sleeper berth hours. The agency cited its own 2013-released report on split sleeper berth time in its approval of McKee’s waiver.
Following the agency’s approval of McKee’s exemption, major for-hire carrier CRST Expedited (No. 17 in the CCJ Top 250), made a similar request, asking the agency to allow its team drivers the same flexibility it offered McKee’s.
CRST said it would make concessions similar to ones made by McKee, telling the agency its drivers would be (1) limited to just 10 hours of driving time (down from the allowed 11 hours), (2) use electronic logging devices to track hours, (3) govern tractors operated by exempted drivers to 65 mph and (4) equip vehicles used by exempted drivers with collision mitigation systems.
The rigidity of the agency’s 14-hour rule, which prevents drivers from stopping their on-duty clock once it starts each day and bars split sleeper berth flexibility, is one of truck operators’ and carriers’ biggest beefs with current hours-of-service rules. Allowing flexibility in how off-duty time is divided would ease that regulatory burden, truckers have said.
The agency did release documents earlier this year showing it has plans for another study on split sleeper berth flexibility, though research likely wouldn’t begin until late this year, at best.