Amid ‘fatigued driver’ out-of-service discussions, panel releases report on research into fatigue measurement

| March 10, 2016

weigh-station-inspection-lane-bypass-kentucky

Since the Minnesota State Police infamously developed and implemented a “fatigue checklist” in attempts to provide a way to enforce the vague CFR 392.3 “ill or fatigued operator” regulation, the checklist in 2011 was declared a violation of truckers’ Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against unreasonable search and seizure. The seeming fishing expedition the questions on the checklist represented boggled the minds of many an observer, and for both the trucking industry and enforcement community, it foregrounded the truly subjective nature of fatigue measurement today.

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A new U.S. Department of Transportation-sponsored report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine aims to fully assess current research as regards both measuring fatigue and its relationship to crash risk. Current research on the connection among hours of service, fatigue and accident frequency for truck operators is complicated by the difficulty of measuring driver fatigue objectively, the report’s authors note. The “invasive nature of capturing measures of the amount and quality of drivers’ sleep” also provides barriers to effective research.

Many factors beyond just fatigue or lack of sleep, too, contribute to crashes.

Viewed in the context of somewhat recent developments around fatigue enforcement, the new report, published by the National Academies Press under the title Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Fatigue, Long-Term Health, and Highway Safety: Research Needs, could represent moves toward providing research to bolster potential future enforcement as it relates to truck operator fatigue.

Since the time of the Minnesota fatigue checklist and associated federal court rulings, 392.3 violations have fallen off considerably in the numbers, according to federal data mined by RigDig Business Intelligence.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, with its 2015 revision of the Out of Service Criteria, amended the criteria as they relate to the ill/fatigued operator reg to better reflect road realities: A violation of the rule should only be issued when fatigue is so obvious and severe that it rises to the levels of necessitating an out-of-service order.

CVSA and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association also, however, in 2014 petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to modify the regulation itself to offer “more clarity and objectivity as to what is considered to be a fatigued condition, such that the driver cannot safely perform the driving task,” CVSA says.

The petition also urged the FMCSA to “provide the necessary guidance, training and tools for enforcement personnel to effectively and uniformly enforce the regulation,” CVSA says.

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What the newly released report found, however, is that substantial data gaps limit understanding of all of the factors that affect the health and wellness of truck drivers, including issues around fatigue and sleep. For instance, although considerable data at various levels of private industry and government are collected on drivers who work for large carriers, much less information is available on those who work for small carriers, especially independent owner-operators, the report found.

The authors recommended several improvements in data and research methods by the FMCSA to support a more comprehensive understanding of the relationships between operator fatigue and highway safety and between fatigue and long-term health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and/or the U.S. DOT should fund, design, and conduct an ongoing survey that will allow comparisons of truck drivers to enable tracking of changes in their health status and the factors likely to be associated with those changes over time, the authors noted.

It would be “highly desirable to link the collected data with relevant electronic health records,” the report’s authors go on to say, also casting doubt on the ability of both the current hours of service regulations and driver medical certification procedures to effectively deal with the issue of fatigue.

Hours of service limitations do little to effectively ensure adequate off-duty rest, the authors note, and little evidence exists that required medical exams in the certification process are effective “in determining drivers who are prone to excessive fatigue due to sleep apnea or other medical reasons.”

As Overdrive has reported extensively in the past, “some evidence indicates that medical examiners have been inconsistent,” the report’s authors note, “in the criteria they apply in evaluating the risk of medical conditions that may lead to driver fatigue.”

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The report further recommended that FMCSA:
**Increase the availability of relevant data for researchers by incentivizing those who capture driver performance data — large fleets, independent trucking associations, and insurance companies — while ensuring data confidentiality.
**Use particular statistical design and analysis methods to account for factors that confound comparisons between control and treatment groups in crash studies.
**Answer a long list of particular research questions that “should assist FMCSA in understanding the costs and benefits of proposed changes to its policies for the [hours of service] regulations, medical certification, and [voluntary-use resources within the North American Fatigue Management Program].”

As 392.3 violations have fallen off (shown above), CVSA/OOIDA’s petition to FMCSA over 392.3 concluded that, until such time that the agency was prepared to provide enforcement tools/guidance to objectively approach fatigue, the agency should remove the regulation from the books and “aggressively research the development of an objective means for law enforcement to evaluate fatigue (and to take enforcement action) at roadside,” according to CVSA.

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Approaching two years after the petition’s filing, FMCSA spokesman Duane DeBruyne says only that it remains under consideration.

“The whole issue of enforcement of 392.3 has cooled down at CVSA as a subject” since the time of the checklist litigation and its conclusion, says Joe Rajkovacz of the Western States Trucking Association, long a regular participant in CVSA’s annual meetings. “There were discussions at one time about where technology at some distant point in the future may develop far enough to determine fatigue, but that was so future forward thinking that pretty much everyone had a problem with it.”

In some ways, the new report underscores such thinking. The research committee behind it also studied the use of various on-board technologies for measuring sleep/fatigue and concluded that despite almost three decades of research on technological innovations for detecting driver fatigue in near real time — with lane deviation and eyelid tracking systems, collision alerting and warning systems, and varying levels of automation — operational strategies for their use are still in the early phases of understanding and application.

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At once, “I don’t think 392.3 will go away [entirely],” Rajkovacz says, “because it is a tool that law enforcement still uses where the officer has clearly identified a driver as exhausted — can barely stand up, falls asleep in the squad car, etc. … I get that enforcement is ‘subjective” at that point and the push a while ago was to try and develop ‘objective and uniform standards,’ which are truly elusive. Law enforcement’s point is that without 392.3, they wouldn’t have any power to place such a driver out of service. Tough to disagree with that point of view.”

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18 comments
safetygirl
safetygirl

I agree with Richard. He put it very well. Let us keep in mind that the majority of accidents caused by driver fatigue are caused by four wheeler fatigue and very occasionally, truck drivers who are completely within their hours of service. The investigation into the Walmart crash should have said, 'Driver fatigue brought about in part by the inflexibility of hours of service restrictions.' (Remember the driver was completely within his hours of service with electronic onboard recording) If Kevin Roper had been granted the flexibility to split that day and keep his 14 hours of on duty time he would have pulled over during morning rush hour traffic for a few hours of shuteye. There would have been one less vehicle on the road during busy hours and Jamal and Denita McNair might still have their father.

Richard
Richard

With the new HOS rules here is what I witness, as a driver. Drivers, right off rest, are sometimes still tired. However, they refuse to stop and take a break because if they stop too early during the day they will be required to stop again, whether it is needed or not. It is illegal to drive after being on duty for 8 hours, without taking a 1/2 hr break. A driver working a full 14 hour day must wait until he has been on duty at least 5 1/2 hours before taking a break, without being forced to take a second break. Drivers often don't know how long their day is going to be, so many look at a worst case scenario and plan on 14. If they are in need of rest in the first 5 hours they will power on, swerving from shoulder to lane and endangering themselves and the highway. Their flexibility has been taken away. If they are going to reach their destination within 8 hours, but a 10 minute stretch and walk would get them over the hump of feeling fatigued, they will not take the walk as the 10 minutes will cost them having to take an extra 1/2 hour due to the mandatory break... again, their flexibility has been taken away. We have an entire police force dedicated to enforcing the rules of our job. We have GPS trackers, cameras, microphones, onboard computer monitors and black boxes. The trucks I drive now will slam the brakes on if someone cuts in front of me... not apply the brake or engine brake, but actually lock them down. I have nearly jack knifed twice because of this 'safety feature' which takes away my control and flexibility when some jack wagon thinks it is safe to come over 3 feet in front of a tractor trailer going highway speeds. If either of these near jack knives had resulted in a crash, it would automatically be attributed to driver error and most likely fatigue. I was trained to do a job, and I do it well. All you well meaning '4 wheelers' out there have no clue when I need rest, a meal, a restroom break, to apply my brakes, to speed up, to slow down or to stop. Roll back the HOS ruling to allow me to stop when I AM TIRED, NOT WHEN YOU THINK I SHOULD BE TIRED! Get the cameras, GPS's, auto braking systems and spy gear out of the truck and allow me to do my job. And everyone wonders why there is a driver shortage!

Bill
Bill

Excellent post! I agree completely.

b
b

Very well put, Now if we can pass a rule requiring all Government people to read it. Would that be a safety rule ????

Bryan
Bryan

Worst thing they did was take away my flexibility to stop my clock and be able to take a rest break without eating into my working time.

Widow
Widow

As a widow and now single parent to three kids left fatherless due to a fatigued truck driver, I believe fatigue and distraction behind the wheel is too much of a safety risk to warrant just letting individual drivers determine whether or not they are fit and awake enough to drive 80,000 lbs / haz-mat trucks. Not everyone uses good judgment behind the wheel. Not everyone has a company interested in your life, your safety, only the $bottom line$. Laws are written to protect you so trucking companies do not push you into working longer hours without allowing adequate time for sleep, personal affairs, eating and potty breaks, maintenance on vehicles, etc., which risks your own lives as well as those sharing the road. There are groups trying to Help you drivers, not punish you. We are on the side of Safety, which Includes your well-being, salary and benefits (such as paid time to load and unload). Please join us in helping you make our roadways safer for everyone.

John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt
John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt

So a Beltway bureaucrat knows better than the driver himself when he is tired? Don't let your emotions cloud logical thinking.

Tomahawk
Tomahawk

I am sorry for your loss. But accidents can and will happen. And there are bad apples present in every group. They aren't roaches, but have some similar characteristics. One being, you just can't seem to be rid of all of them. They breed. I am very interested to hear who these "groups" are that you refer to in your post. The ones that you're teamed up with that are on the side of safety and trying to help us. Other than OOIDA, and Fighting for Truckers.com, I'm unaware of any. So I'm listening. Thanks.

Bob
Bob

Lady I don't know where to start. If you need someone to tell you when to sleep, when to eat, when to do personal affairs and when to go to the bathroom. You don't need to be out here with the people that know how to do a job and make a living. I am sorry for your loss but we are not a bunch of Robots. Some learned those things growing up at home some in the military. There is no company that can make you do anything you don't want to. I don't need some bunch of lawyers in washington telling me how to be safe, when to eat,sleep, go to the rest room, or to do my job safely. You may need someone to control every little thing in your life but some us do not. Most truck drivers got into this because they could make a good living while doing something they knew and enjoyed. It is in their best interest to do it safe, if they are not going to drive safely you can't pass a rule that makes them. Everyone is not the same we all don't eat the same, sleep the same or go to the bathroom the same. I don't need my mother to ride with me. You need to look out for your kids and not try to tell truck drivers how to do their job they are not a bunch of Robots. Have a nice day.

Don
Don

Get real. You can make more and more regulations and you can say the regulations are for whatever reason but the bottom line is you cannot regulate what a driver does on his time off. I don't follow the hospital rules because when I tried I was so damn tired all the time. I sleep when I am sleepy and I sleep till I am not tired anymore. What part of this is so hard to understand. You cant pass laws and make me sleep when YOU think I should. How arrogant

jojo
jojo

I too am sorry for your. I also appreciate the manner in which you said your piece. As you are aware this is a delicate subject especially considering all of the micromanagement tools and techniques that are being deployed. I understand Bob's sentiment as I too am old school. If I may suggest, it's against the law to steal but a hungry person will do just that to survive. What are the circumstances that allowed that person to be hungry to begin with? True, laws have just come into effect to offer a degree of protection to the Drivers. May I say that as long as there are no guarantees that an employee Driver will earn an income fitting this job, as long as the employer has the power to dangle the paycheck, I don't think these measures will have any beneficial effects. The employee Driver is still in the position of having to continuously chase a penny today because there may be no penny to chase tomorrow. As long as piece work is the method used to pay the employee Drivers, as long as the mega carriers are permitted to dictate the labor rate, ALL Truck Drivers must compete against the lowest paid employee Driver. Accounting for inflation, the average Driver should be earning $100,000.00+ annually but the 2014 BLS has the average earnings of an OTR at $39,520.00. Today, we carry more product than yesterday. We produce more with every load we haul than in the past but we are still earning 1980's wages. Because the Drivers time has no value we are put into the position to get offloaded as quickly as possible hoping that we will get loaded as quickly as possible. There are no guarantees that there will be a load to haul tomorrow or next week so we have to "get while the getting is good". Wait a minute, there is a Drivers shortage or so they would have you believe. Because employee Drivers are only paid by the piece, It is cheaper to put more trucks on the road to increase capacity, than it is to use current capacity efficiently. This Driver shortage is great for the megas as a constant, profitable, source of income for their truck driving schools and lease purchase programs that warrant the need for them to self insure. Self insure, save an additional $800.00+ a month per truck! They know that they will not retain Drivers because they don't make money off of Driver retention, they make money off of turnover. Those who have no choice but to hang on end up working for next to nothing or free!!! OR they involve themselves in the carriers lease purchase program that are designed for failure. But HEY, these poor suckers are paying for the truck for the carrier and if they fail, there is another sucker waiting in line to take that truck over. This in and of itself drives freight rates down and keeps wages low as these inexperienced newcomers have been given promises of the "BIG BUCKS” only to go Broke chasing a dream and working within a rigged systtem!!!! They say one bad apple will spoil the barrel. We have many self proclaimed industry leaders that have assured US ALL that Safety is number one. They tell US what WE want to hear and implement programs that appear to promote Safety while they exploit and coerce their employee Drivers by dangling that carrot!!!!!! 168hrs spent at your work station is four full time jobs but an employee Driver that only runs 2,000 miles, four days paid work, will only earn around $812.00. $812.00 / 168hrs = $4.83hr. Big Bucks, Right!!!! I appreciate the fact that these Safety advocates are aware of the poor pay and have encouraged hourly pay with overtime. Unfortunately they do not have enough foresight to understand that dangling miles or dangling hours to be chased still has Drivers CHASING! The ELD is a management tool used for carrier profit, NOT a Safety tool. It has the potential to be used for Safety only if it is used to, only if the Drivers insist that it be used to ensure payment for ALL Hours Spent AT Work, ready, willing and available to work. As it stands, the ELD is an obstacle that can and will prevent Drivers from earning. Most Drivers are completely unaware that these boxes will be programed "Letter of the Law". They believe that they are running legally with their e-logs. These boxes can in NO Way enforce part 395.2 I don't know of any Driver that legally logs per part 395.2. To make things worse the 2/27/13 amendment that permits Drivers to legally log "Off Duty" (???????) while waiting to load/offload has provided these robber barons a loop hole to NOT PAY Drivers detention time. Check out the wording in the Denham Method. At first they tried to sneak the Denham Amendment into the highway bill and now these robber baron Goons are trying to include it in the AIRR bill. The ATA, TCA and Alliance for the Security and safety of Drivers have tried to make it appear that this Denham Method is necessary for drivers to be able to earn. These Goons have set the Drivers up to cut their own throats and be happy about it!!!! The self proclaimed industry leaders own studies have concluded that Drivers work an additional 30 to 40 hours a week unlogged and unpaid. My Congressman told me that he had never seen these studies yet the carrier associations visit his office almost daily. YES, these are the ones who are concerned for your families Safety! I understand that the safety groups are on a mission to win and I applaud that. I know that they have an agenda from their point of view. I only wish that these groups would invite those like me to give an opinion. I understand where Bob and Tomahawk are coming from, the dignity that those like US are losing due to the robber barons money making machines. I also see an answer and hope for the future only if there were some way to get two Drivers to agree on a free cup of coffee. As for me, I have no other choice but to make the best of it. I would leave this industry in a heartbeat if I had another job waiting. I have sacrificed my life to serving You, the public. I spend 330 days a year AT Work, not at home! I don't know my neighbors. I don't have a bar or church to go to. I don't have any friends at home. I know nothing about anything within the town that I live!!!!! I know a lot about my job, been doing this 22 some odd years. I have nothing but respect for my fellow Drivers for the job they do. I have a lot of respect for many, many carriers who do the best they can considering the market conditions that the megas have established! I have sadness in my heart for those like you who have suffered a loss to the highway. I don’t know what stats you are looking but I can tell you that if you look a little deeper, We OTR Drivers ARE the Safest Drivers on the roadways despite the poorly paid inexperienced Drivers who are more prone to be involved in fatal accidents. Big Trucks make big news as we are despised by the motoring public who put out by our being on the roadways! They honestly don't know what we do!!! Just like steaks come from the grocery store so stop killing cows. The cure all, the ELD has not even been implemented yet so that we can see if they result in safer roadways and those pushing the government for results relentlessly continue chasing more and more regs that end up cutting OUR Throats. Yep, I think I’ll have an accident today and hopefully somebody will die!!!!! Is that what is thought of “We the Drivers” who sacrifice so much so that you and others may have EVERYTHING!!!!!! Pat Hockaday (JoJo) 512-423-1320 TruckersUnited.org FightingForTruckers.com The ATA Does Not Represent Me!!!

Thomas Duncan
Thomas Duncan

You have one truck driver that was careless and stupid and you condemn the whole lot! Boy the very people who claim they are addressing the problem are causing it!

Bill
Bill

I to am deeply sorry for your loss. However as stated in the other posts, we are not machines. We all have different runs,days, etc.. I am an independent owner op. The reason why is I like my rest. As a company driver I was treated like a slave. My first run solo after training, I was run for 30 hours straight. When I stopped for fuel ( at their mandatory stops ) I was threatened to get my fuel and get rolling or they were going to repower the load and leave me sitting for a couple days to think about my poor choices. This was common practice. After a month I quite. I had bags and black circles under my eyes. I felt like a zombie. As an independent I run how I wish. I like to drive around 8 hours a day. 500 miles a day is it for me. I like to relax, maybe have a beer or 2 and sleep until I wake up. I use an alarm for appointments only. Im not tired anymore. Never had an accident and only one ticket non moving violation. The problem is mega carriers and even some smaller ones. Dispatchers are paid bonuses according to how many miles their trucks run. Dispatch managers are paid bonuses for the miles their dispatchers collectively run. So the incentive to abuse drivers into unsafe behavior is all about pay checks witch no one but the owner receives a fair one. I believe the best way to determine weather or not a carrier needs e-logs is to audit them With a fine tooth comb. Interview drivers at weigh stations confidentially. Collect the data and impose these regs on them. Not the little guy trying to make a living. Cap what brokers can take on a load so we can be profitable. Mandatory detention pay. E-Logs for all is only going to make safe drivers unsafe. The 14 hour rule makes safe drivers unsafe. Low pay makes safe drivers unsafe. Greedy companies make safe drivers unsafe. I stop before I'm tired not when I'm tired. To tell me when to stop and when to go will only make me tired.

Redjeb
Redjeb

Sorry for your lose but the people who are making these so called safety rules have never been around trucks. The 14 hour rule is a death trap causes drivers to keep going when they should stop. There should be no no time on safety just a restriction on how many hours you can drive. If a driver wants to stop wait out rush hour or take 1 or 2 naps he shouldn't be penalized. Sad but there will be more deaths coming because human nature will always prevail.

Bob
Bob

Oh I have some good idea's. Lets put a MD. in every scale house, or if a company has three violations make them have an MD ride in the truck. How about make drivers get a CDLMD. I got into the trucking industry for the freedom of the road. I don't want to be a damn ROBOT. If they would relax some of these damn rules a person could set up a time to get his rest and stop racing the damn clock to keep his hours strait. This is what makes a driver tired, trying to keep up with all these rules instead of planing a trip and driving his truck. If you are set on making some rules than get a group of 20 year drivers and let them make them. Not a bunch of lawyers or collage students that have never been in a truck or know the things or problems you have out on the road. Hell they might even tell you where we need some rest areas or something that will help drivers be SAFE and not make things worse. THINK ABOUT [ improve not destroy the trucking industry ]

yosef
yosef

When are these incompatant people going to get a clue. Next thing will be driving 10 hrs cause bladder infection due to fatigue. What a joke

VoxTalks
VoxTalks

Fascinating that despite all the regs, we still know very little about fatigue or even which variables to focus on. Maven's 'smart headset' is one solution that can capture driver alertness in real-time. Maven's KPI is the 5-8 second mirror-check rate as shown in this image example: https://www.facebook.com/mavenmachines/posts/1579348422094803

b
b

If you don't know how to get your rest how have you lasted this long. Do you need some machine to tell you that you are tired???