Sleeper Berth vs. Off-Duty Time – What’s the Difference?

One way that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) tries to reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities in trucks and other commercial motor vehicles is to issue and enforce the hours of service regulations for all truck drivers in the United States.

In this article, we’ll provide all of the information and answers you need to know regarding the sleeper berth rule and how you can extend your 14-hour driving window.

What is the difference between the sleeper berth rule and off-duty time?

Sleeper berth is the time spent where the truck driver is resting inside of the sleeper berth compartment of their unit. Under the HOS rules, truck drivers may use the sleeper berth rule to rest 8 hours in their sleeper berth.

Off-duty time is when a truck driver relieves all of their responsibilities for performing any work and can freely choose what to do. Essentially, the driver is no longer working, and therefore, the hours credited will not be towards any on-duty time. However, if you aren’t doing any work for your motor carrier, it will be recorded as off-duty time.

One of the biggest misconceptions that many new drivers make is assuming that off-duty time is equal to sleeper berth when recording their hours of service. That’s because many drivers see that any combination of the sleeper berth and off-duty time can both apply to their 10-hour break.

According to the FMCSA, a driver who logs sleeper berth time and off-duty time can be punished for noncompliance due to a form and manner violation or inaccurate log.

Basic Sleeper Berth Rules

The benefit of using the sleeper berth off-duty method is to extend the 14-hour driving window and provide more scheduling flexibility. These are the following sleeper berth rules that are issued by the FMCSA:

Sleeper Berth Time

Under the sleeper berth provision, a driver may spend their time inside their sleeper berth unit during some or all of the required 10 consecutive hours of their off-duty time. The most important aspect to the 10 consecutive hours off duty time is that they should not be driving during any of those 10 hours and are also not allowed to go on duty.

This means the driver can’t help with any other facets of their job, like performing maintenance tasks. Therefore, at the completion of the 10 consecutive hours of combined off-duty time and sleeper berth time, a driver has their 14 hour duty period and 11 hour driving time reset.

Extend the 14-hour on-duty time

A driver also has the right to extend their 14-hour limit by using the sleeper berth. If a driver spends at least 8 consecutive hours inside the sleeper berth, it won’t count towards the 14 hour duty period. As a result, this will extend the maximum of 11 hours of driving that the driver could use.

Utilizing their off duty time with split sleeper berth

In addition, the driver may also utilize a different method to get the equivalent of 10 consecutive hours off duty. For this to happen, the driver must spend 8 consecutive hours inside the sleeper berth. Keep in mind; it must be less than 10 consecutive hours.

The rest period inside the sleeper berth won’t count towards the 14 hours of duty. Then the driver will take another separate rest period of at least 2 hours, but under 10 consecutive hours long.

This period may be spent off duty or in the sleeper berth. Once the driver completes their second required rest period, they will be able to restart the clock and begin their on-duty shift again. This is the calculation point that will start when they finished their first required rest period.

To better understand the sleeper berth exception, let’s take a look at an example of a driver’s schedule and rest break times:

7 AM: The truck driver arrives to work.

10 AM: The drive begins driving.

2 PM: The driver rests and spends 8 hours in the sleeper berth.

10 PM: At the end of the first break, the driver can resume driving.

In this scenario, the driver spent 8 hours in the sleeper berth, which does not count towards the 14 hours of on-duty time. That’s because, at this point, the driver should be fully rested and able to drive without fatigue safely.

In this example, the driver only used 7 hours of their allotted 14 hours of on-duty time. This means that their 14 hour limit will get extended to 5:00 am in the next morning. However, the driver still has a limit of 11 hours of driving time. That means they still have 7 hours of driving time left.

5 AM: The driver then decided to take a second rest break and goes off duty for 2 hours. Now that brings the time to 7 AM.

Here’s how the duty status and hours of service would be logged in this situation.

7 AM to 10 AM – 3 hours of on-duty time, not driving

10 AM to 2 PM – 4 hours of driving time

2 PM to 10 PM – 8 hours of sleeper berth time

10 PM to 5 AM – 7 hours of driving time

5 AM to 7 AM – 2 hours of off duty time

How long can you stay in a sleeper berth?

sleeper berth

As mentioned above, the sleeper berth provision allows drivers to stay in their unit for at least 8 hours. However, drivers are allowed to split the time in the sleeper birth into two periods, but none can be under 2 hours.

In addition, the sleeper berth provision also states that the total time spent in the sleeper birth must add up to 10 hours. When these rest breaks are added together, they won’t count towards the 14-hour limit.

What are split sleeper berth rules?

The split sleeper berth rule enables drivers to extend their on-duty shift by splitting the mandatory 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time into two different shifts. This means that drivers can adjust their on-duty schedules for longer warehouse hours or hauls by adding in an additional rest break to meet the normal driving limit.

Can you log sleeper berth time if you’re at a receiver or shipper?

Under the sleeper berth rule, you must only log this time, where you’re resting inside of the sleeper-berth compartment. Therefore, it would be inaccurate for drivers to log time outside their vehicle if they’re not resting in their sleeper berth.

How to Avoid Hours of Service Violations

Failing to meet the HOS requirements and failing a roadside inspection could put your vehicle out of service or change the driving status of your driver. In many cases, you’ll have to pay a fine. For truck driving, you may consider using an ELD compliance solution or logging device to automate or streamline the process of logging down your hours of service.

Know Your Cycle

You always need to be aware of your driving window and how many hours of on-duty time you’re able to work. For drivers who work every day of the week, they can work a full 70 hours within an 8 day period. However, if you’re a carrier that works less than 7 days a week, then you’re eligible to work for 60 hours in a 7-day window.

Restart Your Driving Cycle

You can avoid breaking the HOS regulations by refreshing your driving cycle. To do this, you’ll need a complete 34 hours of off-duty time. Under this 34 hour break, you’ll automatically reset your driving cycle. Even if you haven’t worked the required maximum commercial motor vehicle (CDL) workweek of 60 to 70 hours, you’ll still need to take this required break to restart the cycle.

Understand the 14-hour Rule, 11-Hour Rule, and a 30-minute break.

A driver has a 14 hour driving window to do their driving within this time limit. However, they are only driving 11 hours of those 14 hours. The other three hours simply account for other work duties like unloading, communicating with dispatch, and maintenance.

After an 8 hour duty period, the regulations state that the driver must take a 30-minute break. This break must be away from the wheel.

Use a Split Sleeper Berth or Sleeper Berth Extension

When you’re in the sleeper berth status, you are essentially freezing the 14 hour clock. Essentially, you’ll be able to extend this 14 hour limit without needing to take the 10-hour break by using the sleeper berth regulation. In this case, you’ll need 8 hours inside of the 8 sleeper berth.

Every driver can split their required 10 hours off-duty break into two different shifts. One shift must be at least 8 hours spent in the sleeper berth, and the other one must be between 2 to 8 hours as off-duty or in the sleeper berth.

Conclusion

As fleet managers, it’s important to exercise proper safety protocols for truck driving and encourage your drivers to take their 10 hours of off-duty break by utilizing time in the sleeper berth. Also implement ELDs into your fleet, so that they can accurately track their off and on-duty time while maximizing their 14 hour driving window.

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