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Ferro invites carriers to offer pilot project on sleeper berth controversy

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro says the agency is about to review new research on the use of the sleeper berth. (The Trucker: KEVIN JONES)

By LYNDON FINNEY
The Trucker Staff

3/30/2012

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Calling all carriers!

Wake up out there if you are interested in perhaps helping resolve one of the biggest frustrations among your drivers — the sleeper berth rule.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is looking for a carrier or carriers to propose and implement a sleeper berth pilot that might convince the agency that there’s something better out there than the current rule.

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro offered the invitation during an interview at the Mid-America Trucking Show during which she revealed that the agency is about ready to review new research on the use of the sleeper berth.

“It has taken us a couple of years to do this research,” she said. “I have not seen the final draft. It’s been very important research for me because I want us to be able to speak more knowledgeably and have a better conversation with everybody about the challenge that the sleeper berth rule today poses and what are some options. Does this research present us any options? I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, truckers continue to express frustration about the current sleeper berth rule, primarily from two angles.

First, in light of the agency’s stated mission of reducing driver fatigue, drivers are frustrated they can’t stop the 14-hour clock to take a quick nap when they do get tired.

Second, they are frustrated with a rule that requires them to spend eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth instead of being able to split those hours up as they choose so long as no period in the sleeper berth is less than two hours.

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Drivers constantly hounded the agency during listening sessions, through public comments and through letters to the editor about the lack of flexibility in the current sleeper berth rule.

But Ferro is making absolutely no promises that research and/or a successful pilot might change the agency’s mind about the 14-hour work day.

“It’s pretty clear the 14-hour on-duty period is a set period,” she told The Trucker. “As you could see in this latest rule it’s not something we are planning to change.”

Might the agency be willing to look at a future rule that would allow truckers the flexibility of extending the 14-hour day in order to prevent fatigue?

“Help me answer the question,” Ferro said rhetorically. “How do you provide that flexibility and ensure compliance? That’s what we need to get to. Let some carriers frame the question and propose a pilot and tell us what it would mean from their perspective.”

Read more of Ferro’s interview and why the agency dropped the proposed 16-hour work day option from the current rule in the April 15-30 issue of The Trucker.

The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at editor@thetrucker.com.

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