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HOS sleeper berth rules under scrutiny

Commercial truck drivers need greater flexibility within federal hours-of-service (HOS) rules to allow them to select sleep times and duration based on individual need, according to a study released by the American Trucking Associations and sleep research firm Circadian International Inc.

ATA and Circadian evaluated whether features of the current HOS rules are meeting their intended purpose of improving sleep, driver alertness, and safety, including the sleeper-berth rule that requires drivers to split sleeper-berth rest segments into two periods, one of which must be eight hours. Studying compliant and non-compliant driving scenarios, 11 sleep experts and 67 professional truck drivers found that allowing drivers to select sleep times and lengths to suit their individual needs maximized sleep opportunities, ensuring better alertness and safety on the nation's highways.

“Motor carriers for decades have safely utilized the flexible sleeper berth provisions to assure their drivers obtain needed rest,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “Flexibility in the splitting of sleep periods mitigates fatigue and affords inherent protections that are critical for the safety of our drivers and the motoring public.”

ATA said it supports in large part the HOS rules implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2004. However, ATA believes the rules should increase flexibility for both solo and team drivers who use sleeper berths.

“We found a clear consensus in favor of increased flexibility between leading sleep scientists who have studied driver fatigue, and truck drivers who use sleeper berths on a regular basis” said Martin Moore-Ede, chief executive officer of Circadian. “These are the two groups probably most qualified to judge the impact of the current HOS split sleep and 14-hour clock rules on driver alertness and safety.”

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