According to a National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) report, approximately 70 percent of trucks manufactured today have sleeper berths.

In 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) amended the Hours of Service of Drivers (HOS) rule. One of the changes was regarding the Sleeper Berth rules.

In this blog post, we will discuss everything you should know about sleeper berths, sleeper berth rules and latest changes, how split sleeper berth rules work, what the benefits are of taking the split sleeper berth time, and more.

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s start with the basics.

What is a sleeper berth?

A sleeper berth is a compartment installed behind a tractor unit’s cabin used for resting that conforms to the requirements of 49 CFR §393.76. It is also commonly referred to as a sleeper cab or truck sleeper.

Today’s berths are big, well-equipped, and designed to be comfortable resting places for career commercial drivers.

Part of the current Hours of Service rules addresses the amount of time a driver spends resting in the vehicle.

What is the split sleeper berth rule?

Commercial drivers usually have a 14-hour window to drive up to 11 hours. Once these limits are reached, the driver is supposed to be off-duty for a period of 10 consecutive hours. They can’t resume driving before that.

This poses a problem during longer hauls or when the delivery time is misaligned with the available Hours of Service.

This is where the split sleeper berth rule comes in, which allows commercial drivers to extend their 14-hour on-duty shift by splitting the required off-duty time of 10 consecutive hours into two periods.

Old split sleeper berth rule

Previously, the split sleeper berth provision allowed drivers to split the off-duty period into an 8/2 split. This meant one split had to be eight hours, while the other had to be two hours, and the two-hour period counted against the 14-hour window.

New split sleeper berth rule

The FMCSA changed the sleeper berth provision on June 1, 2020.

According to the new provision, property-carrying drivers can now split their required 10-hour off-duty period into two periods of 7+ hours in the sleeper berth and 2+ hours of sleeper berth or off-duty, as long as the two periods add up to at least 10 hours.

When paired, neither period affects the 14-hour window.

The sleeper berth provision now allows drivers to essentially “pause” the 14-hour window by dropping in a rest break. This additional flexibility allows drivers to manage their schedules more effectively and easily.

The purpose of changing the Hours of Service rules was to allow drivers more flexibility and improve driver safety. Studies show that long hours of driving can cause driver fatigue and increase the risk of collision. The rate of critical safety events may also increase along with the duration of time behind the wheel.

For commercial vehicles that transport passengers, the new rule does not change sleeper berth provisions.

How do the sleeper berth rules work?

To look more specifically at the rule, let’s look at the regulation from the FMCSA.

Cargo drivers may split the sleeper berth time into two periods if neither period is less than two hours:

  • One shift must be at least two hours and can be spent in the sleeper berth, off-duty, or any combination of the two.
  • The second shift must be at least seven hours long and must be taken in the sleeper berth.
  • Both shifts added together must equal at least ten hours.
  • Drivers can take the two breaks in any order.
  • If the driver completes both the 2+ hour and the 7+ hour qualifying periods, they can calculate the 14-hour clock from the end of the first qualifying period.

Below are some typical scenarios that may occur, along with explanations of how the new provisions apply to those scenarios:

Splitting the off-duty periods. A driver may take five consecutive hours off-duty and later take a seven-hour consecutive break in the sleeper berth. Under this scenario, both the five-hour off-duty period and the seven-hour sleeper berth breaks are eligible and would qualify for the split sleeper berth provision when they are paired together. They’re eligible since they meet the two minimum hours off-duty and seven minimum hours in the sleeper berth requirement and total at least ten hours.

Proper pairing of rest periods is critical for compliance. Both the 2+ hours and the 7+ hours qualifying rest periods are excluded from the driver’s 14-hour window if the rest periods are correctly paired.

To accomplish this, according to the FMCSA, the pairing that should be used is the one that results in no violations or the fewest violations, in the order shown below, per the FMCSA:

  • Nominal violations (less than 15 minutes in violation)
  • Violations
  • Out-of-Service (OOS) violations occurring during a roadside inspection
  • Egregious (more than three hours) HOS violations during an investigation
  • If all options result in violations, and there is no clear advantage, choose the qualifying rest period that gives the driver the greatest amount of available on-duty and driving time moving forward.

Roadside inspections. If a driver is stopped for a roadside inspection after having taken only one rest period that qualifies for the split sleeper berth provision, the roadside inspector should not cite a violation of the related HOS rules.

Which rest periods qualify? Drivers who use the split sleeper berth provision under the HOS rule can take one period in the sleeper berth (at least seven consecutive hours) and one period of at least two consecutive hours off-duty or in the sleeper-berth. Remember that the two periods, when paired together, must add up to at least ten hours.

What are the benefits of taking split sleeper berth time?

Taking the FMCSA’s sleeper berth rules may benefit commercial drivers in multiple ways.

First, it increases their flexibility in managing their operational and resting hours. This also benefits team drivers who follow the same set of Hours of Service regulations. They can decide whether to use the 7-3 or 8-2 split break according to what suits their operation schedules better.

Second, the FMCSA’s sleeper berth regulations allow drivers to “stop the clock” on the 14-hour provision for at least two hours whether they take the 7-3 or 8-2 split break. This enables them to get back on the road and increase their productivity.

The third benefit of the FMCSA’s sleeper berth rule is the safe maximization of driving efficiency.

This is crucial because, sometimes, drivers discover they have little time left to reach their destination or headquarters before their operating-hours end. When that happens, they may speed and endanger themselves and other vehicles.

With the split sleeper rule — plus regular fleet safety coaching sessions — they won’t need to rush and can better manage their driving time as well as improve road safety.

Do drivers commonly take 8/2 split breaks?

The 8/2 split break used to be the only available option, with drivers using it to plan their trips with maximum efficiency. Now that they can use the 7/3 split break, they can choose whichever setup better suits their circumstances.

Drivers who don’t fully understand the split sleeper berth rules and how the regulation works tend to stay away from using the 8/2 split breaks. That’s because they don’t want to risk violating the Hours of Service rules. However, effectively using the split sleeper berth rules can make drivers more productive.

Ultimately, it depends on the circumstances drivers find themselves in. In certain situations, taking an 8/2 (or 7/3) split break can help drivers increase efficiency, productivity, and driver safety.

That’s why it is important for commercial drivers to understand how the split sleeper berth rules work and utilize these rules whenever it makes sense.

It is important to note that the 8/2 or 7/3 split break is optional. There is no obligation for drivers to take the breaks, so they should only use these breaks when it makes sense for them.

What is the best way to split sleeper berth time?

According to the Hours of Service regulations, property-carrying commercial drivers have a 14-hour operating window. Within this 14-hour window, drivers can only drive up to 11 hours. They must also take a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving.

Once they reach their Hours of Service limit, drivers must remain off-duty for 10 consecutive hours.

But the split sleeper berth rule allows drivers to split their 10-hour off-duty period into two periods (8/2 or 7/3 splits). When used correctly, the split sleeper berth rules allow drivers to become more efficient and productive.

This flexibility also helps drivers manage their schedules more effectively, especially for longer trips, and maintain safety and compliance with Hours of Service rules.

Drivers can choose either the 8/2 or 7/3 options according to factors such as their routes, workloads, driving schedules, fatigue, or physical conditions. This is the basis for choosing the best way to split the sleeper berth time.

Here are a few scenarios for how commercial drivers can use the 8/2 and 7/3 provisions:

  1. If a driver takes 3 hours off-duty or in a sleeper berth, then the driver should take at least 7 hours in a sleeper berth.
  2. If a driver takes 2 hours off-duty or in a sleeper berth, then the driver should take at least 8 hours in a sleeper berth.
  3. If a driver takes 7 hours in a sleeper berth, the driver should take at least 3 hours off-duty or in a sleeper berth.
  4. If a driver takes 8 hours in a sleeper berth, the driver should take at least 2 hours off-duty or in a sleeper berth.

Split sleeper berth logging example

The new provision permits drivers to “pause” an on-duty period. As mentioned earlier, this is accomplished by splitting the required ten consecutive hours of off-duty time into two different periods.

Let’s look at how this plays out in a real-world situation.

In this example, we’ll assume that a driver begins their day at six in the morning with an hour of non-driving on-duty time. That’s when this driver’s 14-hour working window would start.

At 7 a.m., the driver actively starts driving. They drive for five hours until 12 p.m. That means the driver has used five hours of drive time (from a total of 11 available hours) and six hours of operating time (from a total of 14 available hours).

Let’s say that at this point, the driver takes a break in the sleeper berth for eight hours. That, in effect, pauses the 14-hour clock. When the driver resumes driving at 8 p.m., they still have six hours of drive time and eight hours of total operating time remaining. The beginning of the 14-hour limitation period is recalculated to begin at the end of the first qualifying period.

The split sleeper berth rules are clear, but manually tracking hours requires quite a bit of the driver’s attention. Now, more than ever, drivers need to use a robust ELD solution and a user-friendly electronic logbook app to simplify compliance.

Split sleeper berth FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the implementation of split sleeper berth rules:

When did the new HOS rules on split sleeper berth take effect?

On June 1, 2020, the FMCSA published the new HOS rules on split sleeper, which added the 7-3 break. This provision took effect on September 29, 2020.

What are the penalties for violating the split sleeper berth rule?

CMV drivers who don’t follow the split sleeper berth provisions break related Hours of Service rules.

Depending on the specific violation, fines could range up to thousands of dollars. Moreover, drivers may also get poor CSA scores, temporary operational shutdown, and more.

Will the split sleeper berth changes affect my ELD?

CMV drivers and motor carriers should ensure their ELDs accurately reflect the new Hours of Service rules. If they are uncertain whether or not their ELDs are up-to-date, they should seek confirmation from their ELD vendors.

ELDs can help drivers track sleeper berth time

ELDs are the best way to help drivers comply with the amended sleeper berth rule. A good ELD is driver-friendly, easy to use, and audibly informs drivers when an Hours of Service violation is approaching.

The Motive ELD offers all that and much more. Request a free demo today to learn more about it.