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FMCSA proposes pilot program to test sleeper berth flexibility

June 5, 2017

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed a pilot program to allow a very limited number of truck drivers – around 200 – to split their sleeper berth time temporarily under conditions that the agency imposes. For a 90-day period, participating drivers could work under a flexible split-rest option that had been in place for decades before FMCSA’s 2005 change in the hours-of-service rules severely limited the option. Under current rules, a driver can satisfy the required 10 hours off-duty using split sleeper berth time only if the driver spends at least 8 hours in the sleeper berth and another 2 hours in the berth, off duty, or a combination of the two. In other words, the only available options for achieving the mandatory 10 hours are 9 hours/1 hour and 8 hours/2 hours.
 
Under the pilot program, a participating driver could use any combination provided that neither sleeper berth period is less than 3 hours, allowing splits of 3 hours/7 hours, 4 hours/6 hours and two 5-hour periods. To qualify for the program, drivers must operate a commercial motor vehicle equipped with a sleeper berth and must regularly use the existing sleeper berth provision. FMCSA wants participants from a range of carrier size, including owner-operators, and wants both solo and team drivers to participate. The pilot program would collect driver identification details and data on sleep, safety-critical events, subjective sleepiness ratings, and behavioral alertness for up to a 90-day period per driver.
 
The agency recommends – but does not propose to require – that participating drivers complete the Driver Education Module (Module 3) and Driver Sleep Disorders and Management Module (Module 8) of the North American Fatigue Management Program (www.nafmp.org) before data collection begins to ensure that drivers are aware of the risks of driving fatigued and have tools available to manage fatigue throughout the study.
 
Except for owner-operators, drivers participating in the pilot program must receive approval from their carriers, which must meet certain requirements, including allowing researchers to install electronic logging devices (ELDs) and/or onboard monitoring system (OBMSs) for the participating drivers. In addition to the restrictions on drivers noted above, participating drivers (1) may not be slip-seat drivers; (2) may not drive outside the United States; and (3) must agree to the release of specific information to FMCSA and the use of ELDs and camera-based OBMSs.
 
At a minimum, FMCSA proposes to gather:

  • ELD data to monitor HOS compliance;

  • OBMS data to evaluate driving behaviors, safety-critical events, reaction time, fatigue, lane deviations, traffic density, road curvature, and speed variability;

  • Roadside violation data;

  • Wrist actigraphy data to evaluate total sleep time, time of day sleep was taken, sleep latency, and intermittent wakefulness. Participants will wear such devices, which are similar to smart fitness watches on the market, throughout their time in the study;

  • Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT) data to evaluate drivers’ behavioral alertness based on reaction times. Each day, drivers will be required to complete 3-minute behavioral alertness test;

  • Subjective sleepiness ratings, using the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale, to measure drivers’ perceptions of their fatigue levels. The KSS is a 9-point Likert-type scale ranging from “extremely alert” to “extremely sleepy.”

 
FMCSA in 2013 floated the idea of testing split rest in response to longstanding gripes about the negative effects of the 2005 rule change on both productivity and safety. In June 2013, the National Association of Small Trucking Companies told FMCSA that it supported such a study and that its members would be willing to participate. In December 2013, the American Trucking Associations and the Minnesota Trucking Association submitted a joint proposal for a split sleeper-berth pilot program. FMCSA said it considered those earlier expressions of interest as well as new sleep studies and findings. The agency awarded the research contract nearly 18 months ago to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
 
Earlier this year, Dillon Transportation LLC requested an exemption to allow its team drivers to satisfy the 10 hours off-duty requirement with sleeper berth splitting provided that neither period was less than 3 hours. The exemption application elicited only 10 comments.
 
Interested parties will have 60 days to comment on the proposed pilot program. For more information on the proposed pilot program, visit the agency’s website for the program at www.sleeperberthstudy.com and read the Federal Register notice at www.federalregister.gov/d/2017-11642.

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