FMCSA Clarifies U.S. Hours of Service Sleeper Berth Provision
November 1, 2003
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) has clarified the sleeper berth provision in their final hours of service rule, slated to go into effect Jan. 1.The clar...
WELCOME NEWS: Truckers may sleep better knowing some much-needed clarifications to the U.S. hours of services rules have been made.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) has clarified the sleeper berth provision in their final hours of service rule, slated to go into effect Jan. 1.
The clarification, included in a series of technical amendments published in the U.S. Federal Register last month, was welcomed by Canadian trucking industry officials.
“The sleeper berth rule was completely ambiguous before – it really wasn’t clear what it meant. Now the FMCSA has issued the only interpretation that makes any sense – basically the sleeper berth rule allows a driver to extend his window – the chunk of time he has to perform his work,” says Graham Cooper, senior vice president for the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA).
“For example, let’s say a driver starts work at midnight and under the U.S. hours of service rule is required to complete his driving and other working tasks by 2 p.m. The new interpretation of the rule says that if he uses the sleeper berth for two hours, then the deadline for him to complete his work moves ahead to 4 p.m. Any other interpretation, for example the interpretation that was circulating before in which the driver must still finish work by 2 p.m., just doesn’t make sense.”
In the original rule, the following limits were specified for on-duty and off-duty time where the sleeper berth exception is being used:
1. The ten-hour consecutive off-duty requirement may be satisfied by two sleeper berth rest periods, neither of which may be less than two hours;
2. Total driving time in the two on-duty periods before and after a sleeper berth rest, when added together, may not exceed 11 hours;
3. The accumulated on-duty-time in the two periods before and after a sleeper berth rest, when added together, may not include any driving time after the 14th hour.
What was intended by the prohibition on driving after the 14th hour was never clear, according to the CTA: did it mean after the 14th hour of on-duty time accumulated in the two periods on either side of a sleeper berth rest; or instead, after the 14th hour of elapsed time since coming on duty?
FMCSA officials were quoted as giving both interpretations.
But the technical amendment published in the federal register Sept. 29 offers clarification. It is now clear that time spent in a sleeper berth, provided that (a) it is at least two hours in length, and (b) it is used as part of the ten-hour off-duty requirement, does not count toward the 14-hour limit. In other words, eligible sleeper berth time has the effect of extending the on-duty window beyond 14 hours.
For example, the following scenario would be allowed:
Load – two hours
Drive – three hours
Off duty – one hour
Drive – four hours
Sleeper – three hours
Drive – four hours
Sleeper – seven hours
In the above example, no driving occurs after the 14th hour of cumulative on-duty and off-duty time in the two periods on either side of the sleeper berth rest period. In addition, the two other requirements of the rule are satisfied: there is no more than 11 hours driving in the two on-duty periods, and ten hours off-duty time is accumulated in the two sleeper berth rest periods.
Sleeper berth clarifications weren’t the only amendments published by the FMSCA. Other amendments included oil field service vehicles and short haul vehicles. To view the amendments in their entirety visit http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/14mar20010800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2003/03-24765.htm
Cooper says he’d like to see Canada include a sleeper berth provision in its own final hours of service rule.
But he dismisses as baseless rumours Canada is planning to adopt the U.S. HOS rules in their entirety.
“We’d like to see a sleeper berth rule adopted here – but we don’t want to see the U.S. rule adopted in its entirety,” says Cooper.
“After all, they haven’t moved Montreal and Toronto any closer.”
While the U.S. rules are slated to come into effect Jan. 1, truck drivers won’t have to adjust to the new Canadian hours of service regulations for at least another six months.
That’s because it will take at least that long for provinces to get around to adopting them in their own jurisdictions.
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