What is the Sleeper Birth Rule?
Before we talk about the split sleeper berth rule, let’s go back to the basics. The sleeper berth provision states that for OTR truckers with a sleeper berth aka bed in your truck, you can use it for your off-duty time. As with all things trucking there are rules on how you can use the sleeper berth for this time.
What are the Three Ways to Use a Sleeper Berth?
- The first tactic is to use the sleeper berth for a 10 consecutive hour stretch of off-duty hours. You can spend any or all of that 10 hours in the sleeper. However, you may not return to driving or go on-duty during those 10 hours, as they are after all, consecutive.
- The second method is to use the sleeper berth for eight hours of off-duty time. This is useful for extending your 14-hour limit. Keep in mind that during the eight consecutive hours of off-duty time you spend in your sleeper berth, this won’t count as part of the 14 hours. Doing this lets you extend your driving hours so you can squeeze out 11 hours for driving.
- The final way of using a sleeper berth is the split sleeper technique that we will discuss next.
How Does the Split Sleeper Berth Rule Work?
Here you are using your sleeper berth to fulfill the rule of getting 10 consecutive off-duty, not driving hours. However, you can split up the time spent off duty to help you maximize your efficiency. You will only be able to split the off-duty time into two separate periods. To keep with the sleeper berth requirement, one of those two periods must be spent in the sleeper berth. Also you must spend at least eight hours consecutively in the sleeper unit.
Keep in mind this rest period of eight hours in the sleeper is not going to mess up your 14 hour situation. However, the two hours you spend outside of the sleeper berth will count against those 14 hours.
Will You Tell Me More About the Two-Hour Rest Period?
This two-hour rest period will give you some time to do other things, like shower or hang out in a trucker’s lounge or truck stop. So you have some freedom in your rest periods.
Which Rest Period Must I Take First During a Split Sleeper Berth Situation?
It doesn’t matter which resting period you take first. You could take the eight hour resting period first, followed by the two-hour break or vice versa.
Can You Give Me an Example of the Split Sleeper Berth in Action?
OK let’s say you have had your required 10 consecutive hours off duty. Now it’s time to get to work. You start your pre-trip inspection at 8 am and by 11 am you have started driving to your destination. By 3 pm you pull over to take eight hours consecutively as your sleeper berth rest period. You start driving again at 11 pm.
The eight hour resting period will not be included in your 14 hour limit for hours of service. You have driven for seven hours out of that limit. Therefore, your 14 hour limit has been extended from 10 pm that night to 6 am the next day. This is granted to you by taking those eight hours of rest. You are keeping with the required driving limit of 11 hours.
By 6 am the next day you get your second period of rest, which includes the final two hours from the day before. When you finish it will be 8 am on the second day of your trip, but within the 14 hours of driving allotted to you for a single “day.”
Sound confusing? You’ll get the hang of it. The main point is to understand you can take your 10 hour break in segments of eight and two hours. This allows you to take a longer sleeping period once a day, along with a time slot for napping or doing other things, like laundry or paperwork.
Can the Split Sleeper Berth Rule be Divided Up in Any Other Ways?
In the past a truck driver could split the sleeper berth up to give them break periods of four and six hours, or three and seven hours, for example. However, that is no longer the case. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation has restricted the split sleeper berth rule so that you can only divide it by eight and two hours. The intention here is to make it safer for highways by requiring truckers to take longer, undivided break periods.
There is an exception to the rule, as in most cases. Some trucking companies have filed for exemptions to the split sleeper berth rule so that their drivers can divide their resting periods in a different manner. However, this is done case by case and only when the evidence shows that the drivers would be safe with a different split berth rule. There is ongoing research studies to determine if having a split berth time other than eight and two hours is any safer for truck drivers. Until that data comes in it looks like most truck drivers for over the road loads will be required to split their resting periods by the standard eight and two hours.
What If I am Driving as a Team Driver?
If you are part of a team driving situation you can handle your split sleeper berth periods a little differently. For starters, your rig can continue to roll while one driver uses the sleeper berth for their off-duty time. As a result one driver can drive for eight hours, sleep for eight hours, drive for three more, followed by a three hour period in the sleeper berth. Notice this gives the driver an extra hour in the sleeper berth. This is because your hours roll over and you get two required rest periods, beyond the eight hours of consecutive rest.
Keeping Your Hours of Service in Line
Your logs must comply with DOT requirements for hours of service rules. As such, it is your job to make sure you follow the sleeper berth rules. If you do decide to use the split sleeper berth rule, which most drivers do to make their lives easier, make sure to get those hours right. Otherwise you can risk getting dinged on your CSA score, which can cause you difficulties down the line when searching for new truck driving jobs. The bottom line is that you want to schedule your routes so that you get adequate sleep while also managing your hours of service rules. It is entirely possible but it does take practice to get it right each and every time.