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Split sleeper berth pilot program gears up

Aug. 4, 2017
SEAN Garney, director of safety policy for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), said ATA supports the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) proposed split sleeper berth pilot program, which is partially based on a joint proposal submitted in 2013 by ATA and the Minnesota Trucking Association.

SEAN Garney, director of safety policy for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), said ATA supports the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) proposed split sleeper berth pilot program, which is partially based on a joint proposal submitted in 2013 by ATA and the Minnesota Trucking Association.

FMCSA proposes a pilot program to allow temporary regulatory relief from the Agency’s sleeper berth regulation, for a limited number of commercial drivers who have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL), and who regularly use a sleeper berth to accumulate their required 10 hours of non-duty work status.

During the pilot program, participating drivers would have the option to split their sleeper berth time within parameters specified by FMCSA. Driver metrics would be collected for the duration of the study, and participants’ safety performance.

FMCSA also took into account new sleep studies and findings when developing the proposal to ensure valid results, without detrimental safety impacts throughout the program, were reasonably expected.

Sean Garney, American Trucking Associations

“The good news about this study is they’ve been pretty transparent with their overall mission,” Garney said. “Yes, they want to understand the sleep science. That’s the most important thing, of course. But they want to do it through the lens of policy. And so I’m hopeful that when this study is done and the data is in our favor, we can add a little bit of momentum to change this split sleeper provision to allow drivers to drive while alert and rest while sleeping, because that’s probably the safest thing to do.”

During listening sessions for FMCSA’s 2010 notice of proposed hours-of-service rulemaking, many drivers said they would like some regulatory flexibility—an exemption from consolidated sleeper berth time—to be able to sleep when they get tired or as a countermeasure to traffic congestion. Although FMCSA’s 2011 final rule did not include a split sleeper berth option, FMCSA determined that the issue should be explored in greater depth. FMCSA reviewed the literature and completed its own laboratory study on the safety impacts of split sleep.

FMCSA says that the majority of sleep studies to date demonstrate that well-timed split sleep has either a positive or no effect on subsequent neurobehavioral performance. This supports the theory that the restorative effects of sleep on performance may be maintained when splitting total sleep time into multiple segments. Further, split sleep does not negatively affect daytime neurobehavioral performance when compared to a consolidated sleep period of the same total duration.

The study, run by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and Washington State University, will involve about 150 drivers from a cross-section of large, medium, and small carriers, along with at least two owner-operators and 25 teams.

They will be provided with testing equipment—custom electronic logging devices (ELDs), front- and driver-facing cameras, watches that record sleeping patterns, and a smartphone app that tests reaction response times—to judge their alertness and the effectiveness of different sleep schedules. To achieve the goal of 200 participants, the study team will collect data on five 90-day cycles, with an extra cycle possibly necessary for driver attrition.

Data will start to be collected later this year, with a goal of finishing in December 2018.

Other topics from Garney’s “Truck Safety Regulatory Update”:

•  34-hour restart.

“We all know what was in the final rule—a provision that restricted or required a qualifying restart between 1 and 5 am. The industry was obviously concerned about this particular provision. We operated under it for a year and half. We were concerned about the efficiency and productivity impacts, but most importantly the safety impacts. We had to ask hard questions.’

“Well, fortunately we weren’t the only ones asking these questions, so the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee passed a bill in 2014 for fiscal year 2015 which said, ‘Hey, after today, we’re going to restrict your fine. We can no longer enforce this provision.’

“So a couple of appropriations bills passed. These provisions were strengthened and Congress also said, ‘Hey, you know what? If the study doesn’t prove the safety benefits are real, you aren’t going to be able to reinstate those restrictions that nobody was liking anyway.’

“That study came out in March. To nobody’s surprise in this room, the results were an astounding no to the question, ‘Do these restrictions improve safety?’ In fact, in every category—operational, safety fatigue, and health—we saw that the two-night restart did not improve safety over the one-night restart. There was no appreciable benefit.”

•  ELDs.

“The electronic logging device mandate is coming. The first question everybody needs to ask is, ‘Does this apply to me?’

“There is a basic three-tiered test: Is my driver required to maintain a paper log? Because there are bunch of drivers who operate in short haul who are not required to. If they do keep paper logs, ask yourself the next question: How old are the trucks? If the truck is older than model year 2000, that truck is exempted from this rule. That’s determined by VIN number. Finally, do I use onboard recording devices? If you do, then you’ll have a couple of extra years to comply.”

•  Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT).

The rule’s revised effective date was March 17, and the compliance date is February 7, 2020.

The rule establishes minimum training requirements for entry-level operators of CMVs in interstate and intrastate commerce who are applying for a Class A or Class B CDL, an upgrade of their CDL, or a hazardous materials (H), passenger (P), or school bus (S) endorsement for their license for the first time. The ELDT requirements do not apply to individuals holding a valid CDL or a P, S, or H endorsement issued before the compliance date of the final rule.

The ELDT requirements are aligned with the existing CDL regulations in part 383. The rule does not create any new exceptions; therefore, any individual who is currently excepted from taking a skills test in order to obtain a Class A or Class B CDL or a P or S endorsement is not subject to ELDT.

Beginning on the compliance date of the rule, no “Entry-Level Driver” may take a CDL skills test to receive a Class A CDL, Class B CDL, Passenger (P) Bus endorsement, or School Bus (S) endorsement unless he/she has successfully completed a mandatory theory (knowledge) and behind-the-wheel (BTW) training program, or, in the case of a Hazardous Materials (H) endorsement, mandatory theory training that is provided by a Training Provider listed on FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry (TPR), and is appropriate to the license/endorsement for which that person is applying.

“In order to pass the A and B and hazardous material course, the driver needs to score 80% on a proficiency exam,” Garney said. “The proposed rule suggested that drivers should be required to spend at least 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training. ATA stands on that. In the final rule, FMCSA did agree with us and dropped the behind-the-wheel hours requirement.”

•  Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA).

“The Highway Reauthorization Act turned all your scores off pending a study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS). Congress was concerned about the reliability and data sufficiency in the CSA, so it turned scores off and required NAS to conduct a study. If my driver is stopped at a stop sign and somebody crashes into me, I’m probably not at fault. I definitely couldn’t have prevented it. If all those things are true, then you shouldn’t be able to make decisions about the safety of my company based on an accident like that.”      ♦