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How Does the Split Sleeper Berth Rule Work?

June 21st, 2022

Paul Irvin

Paul Irvin

Paul has been in the trucking industry for twelve years. He worked as an over-the-road driver, a local driver and acted as a CDL instructor. He started at ATS as a flatbed specialized driver before moving into a driver consultant role.

Ever wish you could split your 10-hour break to adjust to a customer’s warehouse hours? 

Well, the good news is that you can! The split sleeper berth rule allows you to split your mandatory 10-hour break to accommodate different delivery times and to allow more flexibility in your day.

It should be simple to understand: Split your 10-hour shift in two. However, the split sleeper berth rule can get complicated. Not only do you have to follow specific rules set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), you also have to pay close attention to your hours so that you don’t create an Hours of Service (HOS) violation. A new rule designed to help you can become complicated if you don’t understand how it works and when you can utilize it.

I’ve spent time both behind the wheel as a truck driver and behind a desk as a driver recruiter. I’m here to help you understand the split sleeper berth rule so that you can use it to your advantage and make the most out of your hours.

What is the Split Sleeper Berth Rule? 

The split sleeper berth rule — also called the sleeper berth provision — allows truck drivers to extend their on-duty time by splitting up their mandatory 10-hour break. The ruling, introduced by the FMCSA, gives drivers more flexibility. 

Your mandatory 10-hour break, which typically required 10 consecutive hours of off-duty or sleeper berth time, can be split into two breaks. Originally, the rule stated that you could only do an 8/2 split. However, as of September 29, 2020, the sleeper berth provision changed. Now drivers can take an 8/2 split or a 7/3 split. 

In other words, your required 10-hour break can be split into two shifts as long as the longer break is a minimum of seven hours spent in the sleeper berth and the short break is a minimum of two hours off-duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither of these rest periods will count toward your 14- or 70-hour clock.

Man sleeping in sleeper berth.

How Can I Use the Split Sleeper Rule?

During the course of one 24-hour day, you’re allowed to be on duty for 14 hours. 11 of those hours can be used for drive time and three hours can be used for on-duty tasks, like pre-trip inspections and filling out paperwork. 

To ensure that you get adequate rest, you have to take required breaks. You must take a 30-minute break from driving after eight hours of driving. The 30-minute break can be taken in the sleeper berth or on off-duty status or on-duty status, but it shouldn’t include any drive time.

You also have to do a 10-hour off-duty break. You’re not allowed to be on duty or doing any driving-related tasks during this time. With the split sleeper rule, you can split up your breaks in a 7/3 or an 8/2, as mentioned above, but there are stipulations as to what you can do during the breaks. 

One break can be between seven and 10 hours and can only be spent in the sleeper berth. 

The shorter break can be between two and 10 hours and can be split between the sleeper berth and off-duty status or a combination of the two.

You can take the breaks in either order. It’s important to remember that the breaks pause the 14-hour clock; they do not reset the clock. Once a full 10-hour break occurs, you’ll have a full 14-hour clock.

The split sleeper berth rule cannot be used if you're in violation of your 11-, 14-, 8- or 70-hour clock. Any  HOS violation will require you to complete a full 10-hour break.

Let’s use an example. 

Imagine that you started your day at 12 a.m. with a full clock. You start with one hour of on-duty time completing your trip plans and pre-inspection. You drive from 1-7 a.m. (six hours) and follow it with a two-hour break on off-duty status. At 9 a.m., you go on duty for two hours. You start driving again at 11 a.m. and you drive for four more hours until 3 p.m. You follow this up with eight hours in the sleeper berth for the second half of your split sleeper break. This is an example of an 8/2 split sleeper day with three hours of on-duty time and 10 hours of drive time. 

Before the sleeper berth rule was introduced, drivers would be in violation of their 14-hour clock at 2 p.m. (because you started driving at 12 a.m. and 2 p.m. marks the passing of 14 hours). However, because of the split berth rule, you’re able to drop a short break in the middle of your day and effectively pause your clock to extend your day. You don’t get more hours; you simply move the shift window.

Rely on your electronic logging device to keep track of your hours so that you aren’t in violation. 

You can do a split daily if you’d like, but it isn’t recommended. For starters, it can be difficult to keep track of your hours. Most importantly, only getting seven to eight hours of rest each day is not enough to be fully rested. It’s recommended that you only use the split when circumstances require a split, such as when there’s a delay at a shipper or receiver. A full 10-hour rest break is recommended to give you the rest that you need so you’re fully rested when you start back up.  

Why Should I Use a Split Break? 

There are a few reasons a driver may use the split sleeper berth rule. 

The more common reason drivers use the sleeper berth rule is to adjust their schedule to accommodate warehouse hours or to accommodate a long haul. By accommodating drop-off and pick-up times, you give yourself more drive time. 

A trip may misalign with a shipper/receiver’s operating hours. Splitting up your shift can make it much easier to accommodate hours of operation. For instance, if you arrive at a shipper’s warehouse outside of their operating hours and you’re just waiting for the shipper to open up, those hours go toward your 14-hour on-duty clock. Similarly, waiting hours to get unloaded when the shipper is busy will also count against your clock. 

You can easily run your clock down just waiting, which leaves you with far fewer hours to drive. Instead, you can decide to add a split break into your day. Instead of waiting and running your clock down, you’ll be taking a well-deserved rest break until you can be unloaded or the warehouse opens.

Another reason to utilize a split break, which may be the least common, is that you may simply struggle to sit and rest for 10 consecutive hours. Maybe you have insomnia and can’t sleep and it’s easier for you to take a few hours at a time off rather than the full 10 hours. However, keep in mind that most carriers do recommend that drivers take a full 10-hour break more often than not, as it allows drivers to get adequate rest. 

Exhausted truck driver sleeping on the steering wheel.

Maximize Your Time — Boost Your Income 

It’s important to ensure you’re getting adequate rest as a truck driver. Fatigue leads to accidents, so use the split sleeper berth rule sparingly and only when you absolutely need to. 

The split sleeper berth can be a helpful tool to accommodate warehouse hours and pickup/drop-off times, but be mindful of your Hours of Service and ensure that you’re not in violation. Violating your HOS can lead to various consequences, including safety points, mandatory out-of-service time and even termination if you continuously violate your hours. 

Learning to work with your HOS and maximizing your time out on the road will not only make you more efficient, but it’ll also help you maximize your income. Check out how you can do both of those things in these articles: