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Sleeper Berth Rule- What You Need to Know

by Audrey Beim - Published: 3/21/2017
3.8 55 votes

Sleep plays an indispensable role in a driver’s physical and mental health. Yet, the majority of those usually under estimate the amount of sleep they need and over estimate the amount of sleep they get each night.

The repercussions of not getting the proper amount of sleep can be harmful to drivers and those around them on the road. Truckers don’t only feel tired the next day, but sleep deprivation and cumulative fatigue have a variety of very serious and negative effects including:

All these situations are dangerous especially in the context of one’s trucking job. Whether or not a trailer is loaded, sleepy drivers behind the wheel of a massive vehicle are particularly vulnerable to causing damage.

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About Sleeper Berths

All commercial truck drivers should know the rule: you cannot drive for more than 14 hours in a 24 hour period as a driver must take a 10 hour minimum break, and drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after they have been off duty for 10 consecutive hours.

But how and when you take that break has its own set of rules.

There is good news for long-haul truckers. If you have a sleeper berth in your truck, you are permitted to use it for your off-duty time. There are three ways under current regulations to use the sleeper berth:

1.Use the sleeper berth for a 10 consecutive hour stretch of off-duty hours. You can spend any or all of those 10 hours in the sleeper. However, you may not return to driving or go on-duty during those 10 hours.

2.Use the sleeper berth for eight hours of off-duty time.

3.Use a sleeper berth for the split sleeper technique, which we will talk more about below. This is especially valuable when on a long haul, or when flexibility is required.

Those who have access to a sleeper berth can meet their required rest hours by:

Entering the sleeper for 8-10 consecutive hours
Obtaining 8-10 consecutive hours of rest using a combination of off-duty and sleeper-berth time.
Obtaining the “equivalent” of 8-10 hours of rest in two separate, non-consecutive breaks, known as the split sleeper berth rule.


The Rule

Nothing a driver encounters may be as confusing as the Sleeper Berth Rule, which was amended to now include the Split Sleeper Berth Rule.

Essentially, regulations state that upon reaching the driving limits, a commercial motor vehicle driver is required to be off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours (for property-carrying CMVs) before they can resume driving.

Benefits of the Split Sleeper Berth Rule

Using the Split Sleeper Berth Rule allows a driver to split up the time spent off duty allowing the driver to maximize efficiency on the road.

Here is what is important to remember:

This is often referred to as 8/2 rule. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation have cited research regarding safety as the reason for restricting the split sleeper berth rule so that drivers can only divide it by eight and two hours.

Being Part of a Team

In a situation where there are two drivers, the split sleeper berth periods can be handled somewhat differently and can greatly increase driving time. By using the split sleep berth option, a driver and co–driver team can keep their rig rolling right up to the time they reach their limit.

If there are two qualified drivers, the truck can continue its route while one driver uses the sleeper berth for their required off-duty time.


Exceptions

Like everything in life, there are always exceptions. Hour of Service regulation 13.4 refers to the adverse driving conditions exception. "Adverse driving conditions" denotes conditions that were not foreseeable before a driver began their trip.

If unexpected adverse driving conditions slow you down, you may drive up to two additional hours to complete what could have been driven in normal conditions. This means you could drive for up to 13 hours, which is two hours more than allowed under normal conditions.

A driver is responsible for checking the weather as part of their regular trip planning each day. But sometimes environmental events occur which were not forecasted. Additionally, non-weather related events such as an unexpected road closure would also allow drivers to use this exception.

The bottom line is that you want to schedule your routes so that you get adequate sleep while also managing your hours of service rules. Planning ahead is a crucial part of any trucker job, and striking a healthy balance takes a great deal of practice.


Beware of Penalties

Drive time and off-duty time is managed by a logbook. The responsibility of maintaining comprehensive and accurate data is on the driver. Logbooks must comply with DOT requirements and it is the job of the driver to follow the sleeper berth rules.

In today’s demanding world, many drivers use the split sleeper berth rule to get the most out of their runs. However, if the logbooks are incorrect, it can negatively affect your Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score. This can be detrimental when searching and applying for new truck driving jobs.


What's a CSA Score?

Your CSA score falls under the jurisdiction of the FMCSA and is designed to improve the overall safety of commercial motor vehicles.

Safety data is collected and then broken down into seven different categories. These categories are called Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) and range from everything from unsafe driving to vehicle maintenance.

Keeping good CSA scores can greatly reduce fines for a carrier and minimizes time-consuming roadside inspections. As a commercial truck driver, CSA scores act as an accountability measure for your performance and your compliance with regulations. They are important and can influence your job security. It, therefore, makes sense to do a regular check of one’s CSA score.


The Reasons Behind Rest Regulations

These regulations may seem complex, but they are not in place to harm the driver or their ability to earn a living. Rather, these sleep regulations are in place to protect truck operators and the general public.


The Research

People what happens when you suffer from a loss of sleep.The irritability and lack of ability to focus get in the way of everything you do.But sleep deprivation can also become deadly.

It can be catastrophic when falling asleep at the wheel happens to a commercial truck driver operating an 80,000 pound vehicle. The statistics are staggering:

It is no wonder that The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have implemented strict regulations in response to a growing concern for semi-truck accidents caused by drowsy drivers.


To Sum It Up

A proper night’s rest is absolutely fundamental to overall health.

When receiving 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time, a driver may not go on duty or drive during those 10 hours.

- At the end of the 10 consecutive hours of combined sleeper and/or off duty time, your 11-hour drive time and 14-hour limits reset.

- You may spend time in your sleeper berth to get some of, or all of, the 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time.

- The split sleeper berth has two required rest periods.

- The required rest period in the sleeper berth must be at least eight consecutive hours.

- The other separate rest period must be at least two consecutive hours long. This rest period may be spent in the sleeper berth, off duty, or sleeper  berth/off-duty combined.

Once a driver adapts to the split sleeper berth rule, they will appreciate a more efficient method of driving your commercial vehicle whether on local roads or across state highways. It allows the truck driver to both your sleep and work safely.


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