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 takes 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 who 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 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.
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 11 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 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 at truckload.org some questions and answers on the rule:
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?
A. Yes. However, if you take your eight and two together as in your 10 consecutive and uninterrupted hours, then it does not go against your 14- or 11-hour limits.
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.
For more information on the rule, access fmcsa.dot.gov.