Everything You Need to Know About Sleeper Berth Rules

June 18, 2020
Everything You Need to Know About Sleeper Berth Rules

We all need to catch our ZZZs, get our beauty sleep, hit the hay, and squeeze in a little shut-eye, don't we? Truckers are no different.

I don't care where your consignee's location is. You've got to take a detour to dreamland for some sleepy-time every day. Sleep, or at least rest, is literally mandated by law for truckers. Indeed, enter sandman. And, enter sleeper berth rules.

Let's face it—hours of service, and especially the sleeper berth rule, can be complicated. And with the introduction of electronic logging devices, the leeway on hours experienced in years past has gone by the wayside. ELDs make the likelihood of getting dinged by HOS penalties that much greater. The margins in logistics are tight enough already. No one has time for costly fines.

Thus, in this article we attempt to cover everything you need to know about sleeper berth rules. Consider the reading of this brief article some rapid eye movement about the following topics:

  1. How does the sleeper berth rule relate to ELDs?
  2. How does the sleeper berth rule relate to HOS?
  3. What's the sleeper split berth rule now?
  4. What's the history of sleeper berths?
  5. What are the industry trends?

In other words, we need to wake up to the sleeper berth rules. That said, wipe the crust from your eyes, and let's have a little pillow talk covering everything you need to know about sleeper berth rules.

The Sleeper Berth Rule Snuggles Up to the ELD Rule

First of all, the sleeper berth rule is a subtopic of the bigger topic concerned with drivers' hours of service (HOS), records of duty status (RODs), and electronic logging devices (ELDs). Basically, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits the hours truckers may drive in an effort to keep the roads safer for everyone.

In 1937, the FMCSA established the first HOS rules. They've been evolving ever since. The journey of HOS and RODs truly culminated with the ELD mandate. The goal of HOS has always been to balance sleep and driving (with some flexibility) in order to find the sweet spot between maximum safety and maximum miles.

Indeed, ELDs now track every nuanced movement of a truck. On the other hand, ELDs recognize only four duty statuses for any given driver. The duty statuses are as follows:

  1. Driving: ELD automatically switches to driving status once the vehicle is moving at five miles per hour.
  2. On-Duty Not Driving: When the vehicle hasn't moved for five consecutive minutes, the ELD prompts the driver to confirm driving status. If the driver doesn’t respond within one minute, the ELD automatically switches to on-duty not driving.
  3. Off-Duty: Drivers must indicate or edit and annotate their off-duty status. Off-duty time can include periods of driving—for authorized personal conveyance.
  4. Sleeper Berth: Drivers must either indicate sleeper berth status or edit and annotate their RODs later.

The Sleeper Berth Rule Spoons With the HOS Rule

To get a complete picture of the dreamscape of the sleeper berth rule, here's a refresher of the main HOS rules that dictate the majority of driver movements:

  • 11-Hour Limit: The driver may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • 14-Hour Limit: He or she may not drive after the 14th consecutive hour since coming on duty, after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • 60/70-Hour Limit: The driver may not drive after either 60 or 70 hours on duty on seven or eight consecutive days, based on a rolling seven-day or eight-day period.
  • Rest Breaks: He or she may drive only if seven hours or less have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes.
  • The Sleeper Berth Exception: The driver may split the required 10 hours off duty status into two periods—either an 8/2 split or a 7/3 split—with neither period counting against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window. This may seem obvious, but you can't log sleeper berth time if you aren't in the sleeper berth compartment of your unit.

Bear in mind there are several exceptions to the HOS rules that we won't cover today. Instead we're concerned with that last one—the sleeper berth rules.

I'll Have the Sleeper Berth Split...With a Cherry on Top

To use the split sleeper berth provision of the HOS rule, a driver must spend at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate three consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth or off duty. Essentially, what that means is a driver is allowed to split up their 10-hour break into two breaks.

Originally, the sleeper berth split was limited to 8/2 (eight hours and two hours). But the FMCSA expanded the rule to allow either a 7/3 or 8/2 split to provide drivers with greater scheduling flexibility.

The driver can take the two breaks can in either order. In other words, a driver can take either the two-hour break or the eight-hour break first. In addition, a driver can take the full 10-hour break period all at once. Regardless of how the driver takes their breaks, the FMCSA considers the end of the first break as the new starting point for the 14-hour driving window.

An Example: How the Split Sleeper Berth Rule Works

The split sleeper berth provision allows a driver to extend an on-duty shift. The driver accomplishes that by splitting their required 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time into two shifts. In truth, drivers find this flexibility very useful.

How does the split sleeper berth rule play out in real life? Here's an example.

Say a truck driver begins their day at 5 a.m. with one hour of on-duty, non-driving time. That starts their 14-hour working window. Then at 6 a.m, the driver begins driving for five hours until 11 a.m. That uses five hours of the 11-hour drive time and six hours of the 14-hour clock.

At this point, the driver then takes an 8-hour break in the sleeper berth—which pauses their 14-hour clock. Then, when the driver gets back on the road at 7 p.m., they have six hours of drive time remaining and eight hours on their 14-hour clock. They then are able to drive for six additional hours before taking two hours of off-duty time. In turn, when a driver completes their two-hour break, it restarts their 14-hour window.

It's worth noting that the 14-hour window restarts at the end of the first split sleeper berth shift. That means in our example that the new 14-hour window would start again from 7 p.m.

Just remember, under FMCSA split sleeper berth rules, the combination of the two rest periods is considered the equivalent of a 10-hour break.

The Birth of the Sleeper Berth

The birth of the sleeper berth is worth noting. The interstate highway system in the United States began growing in the 1920s. The trucking market followed the first boom of the automobile industry. At first, trucks had no sleeper berth, and long-haul truckers mostly slept in motels. Later, sleeper berths came into being, but they were "often unsafe and uncomfortable," sometimes only 18 to 24 inches wide.

Sleeper berths were obviously useful to long-haul drivers because they allowed an increased level of efficiency and mileage. Over the years, sleeper berths have grown in size and comfort. Now a sleeper berth can be outfitted with nearly every comfort and amenity imaginable. Put another way, some sleeper berths are now on par with high-end luxury RVs.

Trends Around the Bend

Chandeliers in every truck might take a while to become a full-fledged thing. But technology of all kinds will certainly continue trending. Tech is already taking every corner of the logistics industry by storm. The bellwether moment was the ELD mandate that replaced the paper RODs log books in every commercial motor vehicle with tech. That said, the promise of tech has always been greater efficiency and optimal use of resources. As such, smart carriers aren't falling asleep at the wheel on tech.

Instead, wise carriers are refining their tech stack with several key features that can work in alignment with the spirit of ELDs. Remember, one key feature of ELDs is that they allow a driver to forgo a lot of paperwork. Less paperwork means more of that sleeper berth time can be spent on actual rest! Another example of this same calculus is clear in an app like Vector's.

Vector's software, for instance, provides extremely high-quality document imaging. That imaging power correlates to overall better document cloud storage management options. In other words, Vector allows you to digitize every load document, receipt, and scrap piece of paper. That alone streamlines work flows for both driver and back office. But it also allows for automatic, one-touch invoicing.

In short, tech can make our on-duty time far more efficient, which in turn allows for more restful sleep (or more time to play Truck Driver on Xbox) when off duty.

One Last Thing Before Lights Out

Wake up from your slumber on the new 7/3 split sleeper berth provision! Circumstances will dictate how a driver divides their time. But in general, the split sleeper berth rule—and the flexibility it offers—is a real boon to savvy drivers. That said, here's to sound sleep and the peace of mind of a job well done.

Now...you've read a story, had some milk, and brushed your teeth. It's time for bed. But we'll leave a night light on for you, OK? Sweet dreams!

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.

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