Does split sleeper berth time affect driver safety performance and fatigue levels?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says they want to know, and toward that end, the agency is requesting input from the trucking industry on whether it should come up with a pilot program on split sleeper options and what the pilot should contain.
A Federal Register notice today about the pilot proposal may have muddied the waters, causing some to think the agency was announcing a pilot program.
But the notice is actually saying that FMCSA wants comments on its proposal, “whether there should be a different time frame, what are we missing” in a pilot and suggestions on how the pilot should be structured and would their proposal as set forth in the Federal Register work, said FMCSA Spokesman Duane DeBruyne.
He stressed that: “There’s no pilot, per se, at this time.”
Trucking has until August 7 to comment on the proposal set forth in the Federal Register notice.
That being said, FMCSA’s proposed pilot would involve 200 or more commercial drivers, with study participants being exempt from current sleeper requirements and allowed to split up their time, with none less than 3 hours, with splits of 3 and 7, 4 and 6 or 5 and 5.
In other words, there would be “relief” for pilot participants from the current regulation that requires at least eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth plus a separate period of two consecutive hours in the berth, off-duty or a combination of the two before returning to duty.
As proposed, pilot participants would be recruited from small, medium and large carriers, including team drivers and owner-operators, FMCSA’s Federal Register posting stated.
FMCSA last year partnered with Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute and Washington State University to conduct a split sleeper pilot.
In early 2013 the agency expressed interest in such a pilot and in June the National Association of Small Trucking Companies expressed interest and in December of the same year the American Trucking Associations and the Minnesota Trucking Association issued a joint proposal for a pilot.
According to FMCSA’s Federal Register notice, this proposed pilot is “based on that interest.”
Although the agency’s 2011 final rule didn’t contain split sleeper options, FMCSA stated in its pilot proposal that it “determined that the issue should be explored in greater depth.”
The agency also sponsored an in-residence lab study from January 2010 through May 2011 investigating split sleeper schedules’ effects on driver health, concluding that “with respect to total sleep time, consolidated sleep is better than split sleep” if the sleep is at night. If done during the day, however, split sleep is better.
The duration of the proposed pilot would be three years or less, according to the Federal Register notice.
The results of such a pilot would be reported to Congress.
The comment period opens today and will be available at the regulations.gov rulemaking portal via Docket No. FMCSA-2016-0260.