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DOT Regulations on Sleeping in Your Pickup Truck [Answered with Tips on How to Do It]

If you are in the trucking business and want to know about DOT regulations around sleeping in your pickup truck, you are in the right place.

In this article, I am going to discuss the following:

Key DOT regulations relating to Hours of Service and Sleep Requirements

Sleeper Berth Provisions (including configuration requirements)

Benefits of using a Sleeper Berth

Options for Installing a Sleeper Berth in Your Pickup Truck

Let’s get into it!

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DOT Sleep Requirements

According to the FMCSA, most commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers must comply with hours of service (HOS) requirements. These HOS requirements include required off duty periods which may be fulfilled in part by using sleeper berths.

What is a Commercial Motor Vehicle For HOS Purposes?

Whether you need to comply with HOS requirements is going to depend on whether you are operating a CMV.

The FMCSA defines a CMV as a vehicle that is used as part of a business (so you are using it for commercial use, not personal use) and you are operating it in interstate commerce (which basically means you are crossing state lines).

On top of these basic criteria, they also layer on some additional factors that will determine whether your vehicle is a CMV. They are as follows (if you meet any of them, you are a CMV):

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards

So, if your pickup truck and trailer meet these requirements (and some hotshot operators may very well qualify), then you will need to comply with DOT’s HOS requirements. Let’s turn to what those requirements are.

What are the DOT’s HOS Requirements?

Here are the DOT’s HOS requirements at a high level:

  • You can’t drive for more than 11 hours after 10 hours off duty,
  • You get a 14 hour window for driving after 10 hours off duty,
  • You must take a 30 minute driving break if you’ve driven for 8 straight hours
  • You have a 60/70 hour limit in 7/8 consecutive days

Source

Now you may be asking where sleeper berths come into the picture. Well, you can comply with the 10 hours off duty requirement by resting in a DOT compliant sleeper berth for 8 hours.

Why do this? Glad you asked…

Benefits of Using a Sleeper Berth

While you are not required to have a sleeper berth (which is basically a DOT compliant area in your vehicle set-up where you can sleep), having access to one can have a range of benefits.

Can I Just Sleep in the Back of My Pickup Instead of a Sleeper Berth?

Remember, this is all about satisfying off-duty requirements, so as long as you are not “on-duty” under the FMCSA’s regulations you are satisfying that requirement.

Under the FMCSA’s definition of “on duty, there is an exemption for time spent resting in or on a parked vehicle. That suggests to me that if you hop into the back seat of your pickup and sleep while it is parked (and you do not otherwise meet the definition of “on duty” while you are doing that), that should count toward your off duty time.

That being said, I have not found any definitive guidance from the FMCSA on that question.

Why a Sleeper Berth Is Superior to Sleeping in the Back

But even if you can sleep in the back of your pickup and have that count as off duty time, you may still want to take advantage of the sleeper berth provisions.

That’s because one of the primary benefits of using a sleeper berth in your trucking business is that it can extend your 14 hour on duty window and allow you to break up your required 10 hour off duty period (often called a split sleeper berth provision).

In essence it allows you to pause the 14 hour window by dropping in a 7+ hour sleeper berth period or a 2+ hour off duty break. You don’t get this accommodation if you just sleep in the back of our pickup and don’t have a sleeper berth.

Here’s an excerpt of an example provided from the FMCSA’s fact sheet on sleeper berth rules.

The driver comes on-duty at midnight after having 10 consecutive hours off duty, which means they can drive for up to 11 hours within a 14-hour window.

Here’s how they spent the next 24 hours:

TimeActivity
12:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. (1 hour)On Duty, not Driving
1:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m. (6 hours)Driving
7:00 a.m. – 10 a.m. (3 hours)Off duty (not sleeper berth)
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (2 hours)On Duty, not Driving
12:00 p.m. – 5 p.m. (5 hours)Driving
5:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. (7 hours)Sleeper Berth

The driver used those 11 hours of drive time by 5 p.m. then entered the sleeper berth for 7 consecutive hours.

Because the driver accumulated at least 10 hours of rest using a combination of 3 consecutive hours off-duty (7-10 a.m.) and 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth (5 p.m. to midnight), the driver has not violated the 11-hour driving limit.

Because both periods are qualifying rest breaks, when used together, they can both be
excluded from the 14-hour driving window, so there is no 14-hour violation.

This can be helpful if you arrive at a docking station in the middle of the night and need to wait for it to open.

Under FMCSA rules, time spend waiting at a docking station counts against your 14 hour window, but if you take a split sleeper berth break when you arrive, you can stop the clock on the 14 hour window during that time.

In addition to making your trucking business run more efficiently, you can also save money by using a sleeper berth. You won’t need to find a motel when you’re ready to sleep – you can just hop into your sleeper berth and get some shut eye for free.

In fact, even if the DOT does not require you to comply with HOS requirements, it may still be a terrific idea to have a sleeper berth in your pickup cab.

DOT Sleeper Berths Requirements

If you are interested in using the sleeper berth provisions for your pickup truck set up, you will need to understand what the DOT requires in terms of an acceptable sleeper berth.

According to DOT regulations, a sleeper berth must meet the following general requirements:

1. Dimensions:

Date of installLengthWidthHeight
Before 1/1/195372″18″18″
On and after 1/1/1953 but before 10/1/197575″21″21″
On and after 10/1/197575″24″24″

2. Shape: Must be generally rectangular, except that horizontal and roof corners may be slightly rounded

3. Access: Must allow occupant ready entrance to, and exit from, the sleeper berth without undue hindrance.

4. Location: Must not be installed in or on a semitrailer or full trailer other than a house trailer. If it’s in the cargo space of a motor vehicle, it must be securely compartmentalized from rest of cargo space. If installed after 1/1/1953, the sleeper berth must be located in the cab or immediately adjacent to the cab and must be securely fixed with relation to the cab.

5. Exit From Berth: Must be direct and ready means of exit into the driver’s seat or compartment.

6. Communication: If the sleeper berth is not located within the driver’s compartment and has no direct entrance there, it must have a means of communication between the occupant and driver.

7. Equipment: Must be properly equipped for sleeping, including having adequate bedding and a suitable mattress (e.g., springs and a mattress, innerspring mattress, cellular rubber or flexible foam mattress, mattress filled with fluid and thick enough to prevent bottoming out).

8. Miscellaneous: The sleeper berth must also have proper ventilation, protection against exhaust and fuel leaks and exhaust heat, and must have appropriate occupant restraints that prevent ejection of the occupant during deceleration of the vehicle (must withstand a minimum total force of 6,000 lbs. applied toward front of vehicle).

For a detailed look at the actual regulations, check out the link here.

Installing a Sleeper Berth in My Pickup Truck

Ok, so now you know what’s required. It’s a lot, I know.

You may be asking if that’s even possible with your pickup truck and trailer setup.

Well, I did some research on configurations that may work for you.

Turns out that if you own a one ton crew cab truck, you can convert the back seating area into a DOT compliant sleeper berth by removing the seats and installing the Woodhouse Sleeper Berth.

Note that you will also need to remove front passenger side seat (for unhindered access to the berth)

It’s actually a pretty simple process (takes around 4 hours) and you can always reconfigure to your original specs at any time.

Pricing is reasonable and at the time of this writing, the cost of the sleeper berth conversion is $2,949 (plus truck freight).

To learn more about this option, check out Woodhouse Sleeper Berths here.

Conclusion

So there you have it – a comprehensive look at DOT regulations relating to sleeping in your pickup truck and a pretty cool option to get one installed at a fair price.

Despite their dominant place in the market, I think their pricing is reasonable and it’s actually in line with other premium paid load boards. As of this writing, DAT offers the following plans:

  • DAT TruckersEdge: Standard ($45/month) – includes unlimited truck posts and load searches, load match alarms, month to month billing, mileage and routing features, broker credit data and load counts by state.
  • DAT TruckersEdge: Enhanced ($85/month) – includes all standard features plus the ability to call and search for loads (for when you are on the road), and average rates for lanes you are searching (30 day).
  • DAT TruckersEdge: Professional ($135/month) – includes all Enhanced features plus average rates for past 15 days, access to Tri-Haul (which suggests higher paying routes with triangular route suggestions), DAT Assurance (which helps you collect past due accounts), and North American database (which includes Canadian loads)

There are higher tier plans available for companies with multiple trucks (Power Select Carrier) and multiple dispatchers (Power Office Carrier).