The US Department of Transportation (DOT) introduced Hours of Service (HOS) to improve road safety for truckers and other vehicles on the road. One of the core objectives of HOS is to reduce fatigue-related accidents by setting driving hours limits and mandating a 10-hour off-duty rest period.
However, imposing the 10-hour rest rule can be difficult, particularly for drivers hauling cargo across long distances. The rule can also impact carriers and owner-operators by reducing efficiency, leading to delayed deliveries and longer cargo-handling times.
Therefore, the DOT included a provisional rule to counter both issues. The Sleeper Berth Split Rule not only allows commercial truck drivers to rest in the sleeper berth of their truck but also split the 10-hour rest period into two non-consecutive periods. With this HOS exception, truckers can accommodate tight delivery schedules while adhering to the required rest period.
In this article, we’ll discuss the Sleeper Berth Split Rule in detail and its purpose. We’ll also explain when the provisional rule is applicable and its main benefits and drawbacks. Finally, we’ll share best practices for drivers and carriers looking to incorporate the Sleeper Berth Split Rule into their driving schedules.
What Is the Sleeper Berth Split Rule?
The Sleeper Berth Split Rule is a provisional rule in USDOT’s Hours of Service (HOS) regulation for commercial truck drivers. It allows drivers who are transporting cargo to split the mandatory 10-hour off-duty rest period into two non-consecutive breaks.
However, the USDOT mandates drivers to have at least seven continuous hours in their sleeper berth in one of the split sessions and a minimum of two hours in or out of the berth on the other.
Drivers can decide how they want to split the period, mainly a 7-3 or 8-2 split ratio is used. However, all combinations must add up to at least 10 hours of rest. The Sleeper Berth Split Rule enables drivers to manage their driving schedules more freely while ensuring they get recommended hours of rest.
What Is the Purpose of the Sleeper Berth Split Rule?
The purpose of the Sleeper Berth Split Rule is to make freight operations and schedules more flexible for drivers. Allowing drivers to plan and manage their rest schedules helps them adapt to different driving and sleep patterns while complying with HOS regulations.
In other words, drivers get their rest, avoid exceeding their HOS, and optimize their schedules to reduce supply chain delays. From a psychological viewpoint, the Sleep Berth Split Rule can indirectly promote job satisfaction and well-being by giving drivers more control over their driving tasks and rest periods.
Applicability of the Sleeper Berth Split Rule
The Sleeper Berth Split Rule applies to drivers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) complying with HOS and must maintain records of duty status (RODS). However, the Sleeper Berth Split Rule is not a mandatory rule, which means that truck drivers can opt for traditional 10-hour off-duty rest periods instead.
Below is an overview of how the provision applies to drivers transporting cargo and passengers.
Drivers Transporting Cargo
Under the Sleeper Berth provisional rule, drivers can split their 10-hour off-duty rest period as mentioned above. Drivers can rest for longer than 10 hours. However, by sticking to the standard 10-hour rest period, they must spend at least two hours in or out of their sleeper berth and seven hours consecutively inside.
Drivers Transporting Passengers
Drivers transporting passengers follow the same splitting concept but with different requirements. Unlike drivers operating commercial trucks, they must have at least a total of eight hours of break in their berth, instead of 10.
Therefore, all rest combinations must add up to eight hours. For example, drivers who rest for two hours during their first break must rest for six hours minimum in their second rest period.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Utilizing the Sleeper Berth Split Rule
Utilizing the Sleeper Berth Split Rule offers several attractive benefits to drivers and carriers but may also have drawbacks, which we will further elaborate on in the following section.
We’ll start off by sharing the key benefits of the Sleeper Berth Split Rule for carriers and truck drivers.
- Increases Flexibility for Drivers – The Sleeper Berth Split Rule allows drivers to manage their rest periods better. This also leads to better job satisfaction and allows them to transport cargo across vast distances without returning to their home base after completing their maximum duty period.
- Improves Driver Well-Being – The Sleeper Berth Split Rule gives drivers more control over their routines and schedules. They can rest as needed without worrying about losing out on their HOS and improve their well-being on the road. For carriers, this is one way to improve driver retention.
- Optimizes Driver Efficiency – Drivers can plan their schedules and rest periods according to traffic congestion on their routes. For instance, they can take a shorter break during low-traffic times and a longer break during peak hours. They can also improve efficiency by resting in their trucks, reducing the need to bobtail or deadhead back to base.
- Leads to Fewer Road Accidents – A well-rested truck driver is able to operate their truck safer than a tired driver. Therefore, the Sleeper Berth Split Rule offers an innovative way to reduce the risk of fatigue-related accidents by providing more rest opportunities during shifts.
- Better Traffic Management – Allowing truckers to rest during peak traffic hours for a few hours can drastically reduce traffic congestion on roads and highways. Fewer trucks on the road can improve safety and reduce the risk of accidents.
In the following section, we’ll be sharing some of the most common drawbacks of the Sleeper Berth Split Rule.
- Requires Additional Planning – The Sleeper Berth Split Rule can make pickup and delivery schedules complex due to the need for additional planning and management of driver’s rest times during operating hours. Different rest preferences can affect productivity and transport efficiency for carriers, potentially leading to uncoordinated transportation leaving shippers or receivers disappointed.
- May Increase Stress Levels – Drivers not only need to work around tight delivery schedules but also plan their rest times effectively. Increased flexibility can sometimes have a negative effect on drivers, particularly those who are not used to splitting their rest times, as they may feel pressured to conform to a carrier’s practice to do so resulting in low-quality rest.
- Reliance on Finding Rest Stops – Drivers can’t simply park in the middle of the highway to sleep. They need to find rest stops or truck terminals, which may be challenging, depending on their route or location. For instance, a truck terminal may not be available for hundreds of miles. Moreover, using terminals and rest stops may incur additional charges.
- Increases Compliance Monitoring – Flexible driving and rest schedules can make compliance monitoring and enforcement challenging for carriers and the DOT. Implementing the Sleeper Berth Split Rule could mandate additional data collection methods. Moreover, when using electronic logging devices (ELDs) for tracking rest periods, drivers may forget to switch the logging to sleeper berth mode which can raise disputes during compliance checks.
- Increases Wear On Trucks – Drivers hauling cargo across vast distances practically live in their trucks and on the road. Therefore, they must power up essential appliances by either letting their truck idle or using its auxiliary power unit (APU). This could increase wear and tear of various parts and components, resulting in premature repairs and maintenance.
Compliance and Enforcement of the Sleeper Berth Split Rule
While the Sleeper Berth Split Rule offers convenience to truckers, violation of this provisional rule can result in heavy fines, which are typically within the range of $1,000 and $16,000.
The situation can worsen when breaking the rule while transporting hazardous material. In certain cases, fines can reach up to $75,000. Fortunately, maintaining compliance isn’t too difficult, especially considering the solutions truckers have at their disposal today.
For instance, electronic logging devices (ELDs) can track HOS and help drivers plan and manage their rest periods. Secondly, carriers can provide HOS training sessions to help drivers stay current with the updates and adhere to the latest rules and regulations.
Best Practices When Incorporating the Sleeper Berth Split Rule into Your Driving Schedule
If you’re looking to incorporate the Sleeper Berth Split Rule into your driving schedule, the practices below can be considered.
1. Understand the Sleeper Berth Split Rule
The first thing you must do before incorporating the Sleeper Berth Split Rule is learn everything you can about it. You can check the official information from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Moreover, It’s important to learn how to calculate and record split periods using log books or ELDs. HOS regulations are subject to changes and updates. Hence, you should keep tabs on them to ensure you remain compliant.
2. Plan Your Route & Schedule in Advance
The best way to successfully incorporate the Sleeper Berth Split Rule is by proactive planning and scheduling. When transporting cargo between various locations, you must identify suitable opportunities to split your rest period within your route and schedule.
Ensure you study traffic patterns, cargo handling duration, and pickup/delivery times to anticipate when you will rest. For instance, if a shipper has a history of handling cargo for more than 2 hours, it might be wise to use the handling period to rest in your sleeper berth.
Beyond that, you can also look for potential rest stops and truck terminals to optimize your break splits.
3. Inform Your Company Whenever You Apply It
Since you can choose your rest periods and schedules, you should always proactively communicate your intentions to your fleet manager or operations team whether it is to wait for traffic to clear up or that you are feeling drowsy. With this information, they can better update receivers or shippers on delivery or pickup times and manage their expectations.
4. Ensure That You’re Well-Rested
The most important practice you can adopt when leveraging the Sleeper Berth Split Rule is getting enough rest. As you should know by now, the 10-hour off-duty rest period is a bare minimum. You can and should take more time if you’re fatigued. The more rested you are, the safer you will be on the road.
Secondly, never sacrifice rest time and overexert yourself in your line of work. Listen to your body and take breaks when you’re tired. Delays are often inevitable in the industry. However, it’s better to occasionally delay deliveries than to risk being involved in an accident.
Get Free Course Access
If you enjoyed the article, don’t miss out on our free supply chain courses that help you stay ahead in your industry.
Co-Founder & Writer
About the Author
Andrew is a multi-business owner with over 12 years of experience in the fields of logistics, trucking, manufacturing, operations, training, and education.
Being the co-founder of freightcourse has given him the ability to pursue his desire to educate others on manufacturing and supply chain topics.