In this article, we're looking at a hot topic for drivers and carriers: trying to understand the sleeper berth exception to the latest FMCSA Hours of Service regulations. When your livelihood depends on driving, it's crucial to understand when you can drive and when you can't. Unfortunately, there's perhaps no more confusing topic than hours of service (HOS) and the sleeper berth exception. In addition, some drivers complain that electronic logging devices (ELDs) have failed to update their tracking capabilities that reflect the FMCSA HOS changes enacted on September 29, 2020. This article will provide you with the information and links you'll need to drive safely.
That said, I have to add a brief disclaimer. First of all, the FMCSA rules are complex, and every driver has certain specific circumstances that this article may not address. This article isn't legal advice, and you must read and understand the FMCSA section 395 regulations as they pertain to your hours of service situation specifically.
If you're a driver and ever feel fatigued, pull over at the next safe place and rest—even if you have time left on your driving clock! I recommend you err on the side of caution. And remember, getting caught driving fatigued or in violation of the HOS regulations will result in severe penalties. Don't risk it.
Sure, it might be inconvenient to be forced to stop. It might even affect your ability to deliver a load, which hurts your pocketbook. But that thinking is short term. Over the long haul, fatigued driving has a way of catching up with all of us. Thus, it's worth pointing out that the HOS rules are also meant to protect drivers from pressure to drive when it's unsafe. Coercion and pressured driving could come from well-meaning circumstances—or from yourself! Thus, HOS and the law protect us all from that decision-making moment.
In truth, at the end of the day, and over the course of a driving career, the best thing to do is follow the HOS mandates and get your rest.
That being said, let's dive in to hours of service so we can get clear on when it's legal to drive and when it's not. Let's answer some FAQs about HOS!
HOS: hours of service. This is one of many pieces that make up a driver's daily workflow. If you're looking to streamline your life, I recommend working with Vector. The Vector app provides a cutting-edge digitized document toolkit that integrates with your transportation management system (TMS) and helps drivers simplify their paperwork and schedule. In short, Vector gives back the luxury of time to drivers, office employees, and fleet managers alike.
RODs: record of duty. That means the manner in which a driver records their hours. RODs can be paper, but it's become more common to track RODs by ELD.
ELD: electronic logging device. This is attached directly to the vehicle. Most of a driver's reporting is automatic. ELDs allows drivers to identify duty status and make certain edits.
Trip planning: Professional drivers route their trips and calculate their hours ahead of time. Run the miles, locate the rest stops on your route, and form a game plan. Yes, you can't foresee an accident. But you can prepare in advance for certain variables, such as the weather forecast, rush hour areas, road construction, detours, and speed limits.
When you're trying to understand how hours of service works, it's critical to understand that there are two clocks:
These two clocks track time in different and overlapping ways—and they're the primary source of confusion surrounding HOS.
How can there be two clocks? Consider these two examples from the world of sports.
Before we get into sleeper berth and other exceptions of HOS, it's important to understand the four primary governing limits on a driver's time. They are:
OK, here we are. The split-sleeper berth exception is part of a driver's 10 hours of required off-duty time. Drivers may split their 10-hour off-duty period into either 8/2 or 7/3 hours. The split-sleeper exception turns your off-duty 10 hours from a consecutive clock into a cumulative clock.
All hours of off-duty time (8, 2, 7, or 3) stop your cumulative 14-hour drive time window clock. In other words, off-duty time pauses the 14-hour on-duty driving window. Be aware that the longer 8-hour or 7-hour section of time must be spent in the sleeper. The shorter 2-hour or 3-hour section doesn't necessarily need to be in the sleeper. But all combined split-sleeper berth pairings must add up to at least 10 hours. When you reach a combined 10 hours of off-duty time, a new 14-hour window begins.
Let's open the mailbag and tackle a few frequently asked questions:
Like any rule, there are exceptions to the HOS regulations. Knowing whether you're eligible for an HOS exception can help you avoid a penalty. HOS has many exceptions, but these are the most common:
The split-sleeper exception is complex, but you can learn the ropes. And once you understand how to stay legal with your HOS, you'll turn that flexibility into productivity.
Carry on and keep truckin'!
This post was written by Brian Deines. Brian believes that every day is a referendum on a brand’s relevance, and he’s excited to bring that kind of thinking to the world of modern manufacturing and logistics. He deploys a full-stack of business development, sales, and marketing tools built through years of work in the logistics, packaging, and tier-1 part supply industries serving a customer base comprised of Fortune 1000 OEMs.