On October 21st, 2019, the FMCSA concluded the public comment period for their notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on updating HOS standards for drivers. The proposed rule changes cover a variety of topics, such as modifying the adverse driving exception, changing the short-haul exception available to some commercial drivers, and increasing flexibility for the 30-minute break rule.
These changes have merit and should be subject to public debate, but there’s one proposed rule change which has raised a flag with the scientific community: modifying the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10-hours off duty into a 7 and 3 split, rather than the currently required 8 and 2 split. Along with the scientific community, many fleets have also expressed concern about the safety behind this new flexibility.
Science Says Less Than 8 Hours of Sleep Is Bad
In his book Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams, neuroscientist Matthew Walker, the premiere sleep expert today, makes it clear that nearly everyone needs eight hours of sleep to function at full cognitive capacity. When people don’t get the full eight hours of sleep, the consequences are starker than most imagine.
According to Walker, “All it takes is one hour” of sleep loss to see serious effects on your health. Discussing the data collected by his team on daylight savings time and its effects on cardiovascular health, he said “In the spring, when we lose one hour of sleep, we see a subsequent 24% increase in heart attacks the following day. In the autumn, when we gain an hour of sleep, we see a 21% reduction in heart attacks. Isn’t that incredible?”
And that’s just the effects of sleep loss to your personal health. It doesn’t even begin to cover the documented effects sleep loss has on driving ability among professional drivers.
How Should Your Fleet Approach a 7 – 3 Split?
- Schedule your drivers’ routes so they can do an 8 – 2 split most days. While the flexibility of a 7 – 3 split is nice, it could cost you more in the long run with increased turnover and accidents due to poorer driver health.
- Tell your drivers to cool their cabins to 65 degrees for sleep. For sleep to occur, the human body temperature must lower a few degrees, which is why you likely find it difficult to sleep in a hot room. 65 degrees is the ideal room temperature for most people when trying to sleep, and this temperature significantly increases the quality of sleep each night.
- Schedule your drivers’ routes so they can sleep at the same time each night. One of the most important ingredients for quality sleep is regularity. If drivers have routes that allow them to sleep at the same time each night, they are much more likely to receive a full, quality night’s rest.
If your drivers have sleep apnea or sleep with a CPAP machine, you should invest in a technology solution that lets you better understand their machines’ data. Tools like the Idelic Safety Suite display CPAP data alongside all other driver data to help fleet managers better spot drivers who are at-risk for an accident and ensure drivers stay happy, healthy, and safe. Sign up for a demo here.
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