The American Trucking Associations and its research arm, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), have launched a project to collect data to show the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that use of split rest in sleeper berths has not degraded safety and that any changes may result in significant cost and productivity problems for many carriers.
The latest change to the hours-of-service regulations that took effect Oct. 1 essentially eliminates split rest for both solo drivers and teams, offering instead the opportunity to take eight consecutive hours in a sleeper berth, coupled with a two-hour rest break, rather than the 10 hours consecutive rest required if sleeper berths are not used.
In an Oct. 26 letter to FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg, ATA President Bill Graves expressed “serious and pervasive concerns” with the revisions to the sleeper-berth provision. “Professional drivers for ATA’s motor carrier members have for decades safely utilized the flexible sleeper-berth provision to assure their drivers obtain needed rest, while ensuring the timely and efficient movement of America’s freight.”
Numerous factors in how drivers split their rest ensure safe operations, including the fact that drivers are limited in the amount of driving they can do after each sleeper-berth period. “Accidents are strikingly low for teams,” Graves said. But “this engrained operational and safety practice that was formerly recognized by FMCSA has been regulated away based on a very limited amount of scientific literature that may not apply.”
In addition to safety concerns with the change, ATA said the impact on motor carriers “will very likely be far beyond $30 million as projected by the agency in its economic analysis.” That analysis fails to consider that some carriers and owner-operators rely heavily on the flexibility offered by the sleeper-berth provision, Graves said. “We are hopeful that we will also be able to expeditiously collect data that may reflect on the costs and productivity impacts of this change on motor carriers, and we’d ask for FMCSA’s involvement here as well.”