New HOS rule changes berth time

Aug. 23, 2005
The new hours-of-service (HOS) rule issued August 19 appears to have only one major change -- sleeper berth time.

The new hours-of-service (HOS) rule issued August 19 appears to have only one major change -- sleeper berth time.

We're still analyzing the ruling with regard to sleeper berths, said Cliff Harvison, National Tank Truck Carriers president. "It would appear that the agency is requiring drivers to spend eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth in order to comply. The key word is consecutive.

"We believe the prime impact will be on carriers of chemicals and foodgrade products. We have asked several carriers to comment on this aspect of the new rules. However, it's premature to comment on the overall impact at this time."

The new rule, which goes into effect October 1, requires drivers who use sleeper berths to take eight consecutive hours in the berth, plus another two consecutive hours off-duty. The additional two hours may be taken in or out of the berth, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Bill Graves, American Trucking Associations president, seconded Harvison's remarks, saying "We need to closely examine the impact of the new sleeper berth rule on trucking companies and their drivers, particularly team drivers that are so critical to our just-in-time economy.

"In the meantime we feel confident that the trucking industry will continue its positive progress in safety and productivity under these rules.”

FMCSA said the new rule addresses concerns about driver fatigue resulting from sleep fragmentation by requiring the consecutive eight-hour berth period.

"This allows drivers to obtain one primary period of sleep and have a second two-hour off-duty or sleeper berth period to use at their discretion for breaks, naps, meals, and other personal matters," FMCSA said.

FMCSA issued the rule August 19, 2005, that spells out the length of time commercial drivers can operate trucks before they are required to take a break.

The new rule replaces a 2003 regulation that was successfully challenged in federal court. The court sent FMCSA back to the drawing board to design a new rule.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Public Citizen, has already criticized the latest FMCSA offering, saying "it is virtually unchanged" from the 2003 rules that the court struck down.

The group also is calling for FMCSA to "reconsider this issue and redraft the rule."

FMCSA said parts of the latest rule, including the maximum driving time and minimum rest limits remain the same.

As in the 2003 regulations, the new rule prohibits truckers from driving more than eleven hours in a row, working longer than 14 hours in a shift, and driving more than 60 hours over a seven-day period or 70 hours over an eight-day period

In addition, the new rule requires truckers to rest for at least 10 hours between shifts and provides a 34-hour period to recover from cumulative fatigue.

The Truckload Carriers Association has posted on its Web site some questions and answers on the rule, anticipating queries from carriers and drivers:

Q. If I take my two consecutive hours separate from my eight in the berth, will the two hours go against my 14 or 11 consecutive hour duty period? Q. Can I take my two hours before my eight hours. A. Yes. As long as you have eight consecutive hours in the berth at some point. Q. Can I break my two hours up? A. No, they must be consecutive.

To see the rule in its entirety, click here for the FMCSA Web site.