Sleeper berth: Should more truckers be able to split as they see fit?

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McKee Foods Transportation has petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for a renewal of its nearly 10-year-old exemption allowing McKee team drivers to split their sleeper berth time into two periods totaling 10 hours.

Originally conditioned on being available only to team operators running regular schedules with e-logs, among some other stipulations, the waiver allowing the exemption has been in place since 2015. FMCSA has since liberalized split-sleeper procedures for all professional truckers under the hours of service, introducing a measure of new flexibility in 2020

What's been allowed for McKee teams under the exemption, though, is a measure farther than the maximum 7/3-hour split available to all operators today. The renewal would allow McKee team drivers to continue to liberally use the split up to 5/5 for the equivalent of 10 hours off-duty (as long as neither of the two periods is less than three hours).

[Related: Run an e-log as a team, keep a regular weekly schedule....: You could have grounds for more split-sleeper options]

In short, McKee's teams can operate in a manner that was allowable under the hours rules prior to changes bringing the 14-hour duty-day maximum into play in the early part of this century. Many Overdrive readers through the years have voiced the view that, while FMCSA's 2020 hours changes were helpful in creating more opportunities for legal hours flexibility, taking the bedrock rule even farther for splits is preferred. That is, as long as sleeper periods continue to "pause the 14-hour duty clock" as up to three-hour rest periods do today, not penalizing rest with lost duty time.  

In response to polling way back in 2013, well before the more recent changes, a whopping 84% of owner-operators responding noted they felt better rest would be the result of regulations that allowed them to split the required 10 hours off-duty however they saw fit. 

What's your view today? 

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The McKee Foods exemption is currently set to expire on April 20, 2025. The renewal would extend the waiver for five more years.

FMCSA's set to accept comments on the request through Aug. 9. --Matt Cole contributed reporting.

The video below, from around the time of the last hours of service regulation change, helps explain the current split-sleeper rule and potential time management benefits.

[Related: Rolling the 14: How to pull off the split sleeper in the hours of service]