FMCSA concludes new hours of service rule better for safety in its long-awaited study

| January 30, 2014

night truck stopIn its long-awaited field study on the current hours-of-service rule, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has concluded that the two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. period requirements of the 34-hour restart provisions of the rule cause truck operators to drive safer and be better rested.

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The results of the study were released Jan. 30. It was conducted by the Sleep Performance Research Center in Washington State University in Spokane, Wash., and Pulsar Informatics in Philadelphia, Pa.

Researchers studied 106 drivers, ages 24-69, who were studied in two duty cycles and during the 34-hour restarts on each side.

Drivers who did not include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods reported “greater sleepiness, especially towards the end of their duty periods,” than when following the provisions of the current HOS rule, the study says. They also deviated from their lane more often and “exhibited more lapses of attention, especially at night,” the study says.

Also, drivers who didn’t include the two nighttime periods in their restart got most of their sleep during the day, the study says, and spent more time driving and more time driving at night, and most of their on-duty time came at night.

“This new study confirms the science we used to make the hours-of-service rule more effective at preventing crashes that involve sleepy or drowsy truck drivers,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. “For the small percentage of truckers that average up to 70 hours of work a week, two nights of rest is better for their safety and the safety of everyone on the road.”

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The study presents different results than research and surveys done by both the American Trucking Associations’ American Transportation Research Institute and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Both groups released studies in the fall concluding that, in addition to carriers and drivers losing productivity and revenue due to the rules, drivers were less rested on the whole under the current rule than before. Click here to see Overdrive’s coverage of ATRI’s study, and click here to see coverage of OOIDA’s.

The completion of FMCSA’s study has been a point of contention between FMCSA and members of the House responsible for oversight of the agency. The report was supposed to be completed, per the current MAP-21 highway funding law, by Sept. 30, 2013.

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) chastised the agency more than once for missing the deadline. He and other representatives also took a stern tone in November with Ferro in a House hearing held to determine the impacts of the hours-of-service rules over the fact the study had not yet been completed.

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Hanna is also the sponsor of a House bill that would overturn the hours rule until the Government Accountability Office could further study the provisions and their impacts on the industry. The Senate has introduced a version of the bill, too.

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Of 106 drivers studied in FMCSA’s study, 44 were local drivers, 26 regional and 36 over-the-road, who drove 414,937 miles during the study, while researchers gathered a combined 1,260 days of data.

The drivers wore write activity monitors to record sleep and wake periods and used smartphones to take psychomotor vigilance tests, log fatigue and sleepiness and log sleep, wake and caffeine.

Also, trucks in the study were equipped with data acquisition systems that recorded distance traveled, speed, acceleration, lateral lane position, steering wheel angle, headway distance, fuel use and other paramters.

All trucks in the study were equipped with electronic logging devices, and information from those was also downloaded from carriers.

The tests were conducted between January 2013 and July 2013.

Click here to see the results of the study. 

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