Hours rule flaws: Study finds fault in FMCSA research, calls for review of rule

| April 23, 2014

hours-of-service-truck-stopThe research used by FMCSA to justify its hours of service rule is seriously flawed and calls into question the entirety of the rule itself, said the American Transportation Research Institute in a study released this week. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, however, stands behind its study. 


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ATRI says it has identified a variety of technical issues related to research design flaws, validity of measurement techniques and interpretations and data conflicts within and across the agency’s January-released study. 

FMCSA collected fatigue measurements from 106 truck drivers during two duty cycles that included two restart breaks. FMCSA contends the results support the efficacy of the restart rule that went into effect July 1, 2013.

The trucking industry and some members of Congress immediately criticized the report. Congress also has recently asked the the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the studies done by FMCSA to create and back the rule.

The Technical Memorandum by ATRI, the research arm of the American Trucking Associations, documents the following issues with FMCSA’s study:

  • The field study report purports to have measured differences between restarts with one and two nighttime periods (1 a.m. to 5 .a.m.) but instead measured differences in restarts that range from 34 hours to an unknown/non-limited number of hours off-duty.


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  • MAP-21 required that the field study be “representative of the drivers and motor carriers regulated by the hours of service regulations” but the study includes, on average, less than 12 days’ worth of data for each of only 106 drivers.
  • The FMCSA field study does not present research to support the limitation of the use of the 34-hour restart to once per week (168 hours).
  • Use of the 3-minute Psychomotor Vigilance Test showed lapses of attention by drivers in both duty cycle groups, but offered no link between the average number of lapses, fatigue and the safe operation of commercial vehicles.
  • The two duty cycle groups had lane deviation measurements that differed by 1/10th of a centimeter and the study authors provide no evidence that these findings are relevant or have a nexus to driver fatigue in either of the two groups.
  • The difference in sleep obtained by the two duty cycle groups on their restart breaks differed by only six minutes per 24-hour period.
  • Average driver scores on the subjective sleepiness scale did not indicate any level of sleepiness.
  • The study confirms that drivers in the “two or more nighttime” group are more likely to drive during the day – a time when FMCSA’s own data shows a higher crash risk.

“FMCSA has heard loud and clear from carriers and drivers that the new rules are not advancing safety and are creating additional stress and fatigue on the part of truck drivers,” says Steve Rush, president of Carbon Express Inc. in Wharton, N.J.  “ATRI’s analysis raises enough questions about FMCSA’s own study that should compel a comprehensive review of the entire rule.”


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FMCSA continues to defend both the study and the rule.

“ATRI’s report is an attempt to cloud the fact that the updated hours-of-service rule is working to ensure that truck drivers who work extreme schedules of up to 70 hours a week are getting the recuperation time they need before getting back behind the wheel,” says an FMCSA statement. “A well-rested commercial driver is a safer driver.”

The agency notes that the third-party analysis is “one of the largest real-world studies ever conducted with commercial drivers” and found that drivers who began their work week following a 34-hour restart break with just one nighttime period of rest, as compared to two:

  • Exhibited more lapses of attention, especially at night;
  • Reported greater sleepiness, especially toward the end of their duty periods; and
  • Showed increased lane deviation (i.e., more variability in lateral lane position) in the morning, afternoon and at night.

A copy of the ATRI report is available here. ATRI is also looking for input from truck operators on the impacts of the current hours-of-service rule and about detention time for two separate studies it’s working on.

  • Richard Wilson

    I just did 130 drivers logs for a month and found out more than the FMCSA’s Study and I bet I caharged a lot less than what that study costs!

  • Richard Wilson

    And I bet mine was more correct than theirs!

  • Kevin J. Reidy

    The FMCSA adamantly refuses to review any study that might produce results contrary to their agenda, but continues to use any and all data produced by their own studies *only* that can be cherry-picked to produce the required results.

    75% of ALL auto/CMV accidents are caused by the non-truck driver. Please tell me how my hours of service rest breaks in any configuration make that number change in any way for the better.

    No one can. Truck drivers are safer now than ever, auto drivers are increasingly more dangerous to me than I am to them.

    That fact pisses off the FMCSA more than any other, because they have no way to spin or refute it into something they can use against commercial vehicle operators.

  • T48

    This amongst other changes for safety via FMCSA is a part of bought & paid for legislation. i.e. the data need not justify anything other than the laws going on the books.

  • Sedric

    What a joke the fmcsa is.they just need to go away along with dot

  • gearjamn

    My Question is why limit the week to only ONE restart. I mean there are many times I get two a week why is that not safer than working a full 70 hours until a restart? And why should we be penalized with not getting our hours reset if we sit ? These people are real idiots

  • http://1600watch.com/ Bruce Kolinski

    I never cease to be amazed that as working tax payers we actually pay for and apparently accept agencies as stubbornly negligent, as hopelessly incompetent and as possibly corrupt as FMCSA apparently is. If the entire FMCSA staff were to drive past actual highway safety, there is zero chance that any of them would recognize it for what it was. The Driver is the only entity that is actually concerned about safety. His or her life and living depend 100% on it.

  • Dave Nichols

    any government outfit ending in ‘A’ should be disbanded now !!

  • douglasmorton

    Does this mean my body was telling the correct thing that the FMCSA is full of shit, this because my body is programed for it’s regular sleep plan? Not between 1am to 5am, which made me more tired because that wasn’t normal. Gee that’s not funny, as I got my Class A to make me legal when I was 21 and I’m 69 now.

  • hacksaw

    I drove for 29 years with all but two as an owner operator. I napped every afternoon for at least 1 hr and some times 2. I ran at night in the winter and days during the summer. Both provided better sleeping conditions and less auto traffic during bad weather and slick roads are easy’r to run on the colder it is. After having been retired for 5 years I still crave that afternoon refreshing nap. May the know it all’s In Washington some day wake up and see the way it was and maybe pull the old head out and look at a bigger picture. 3.5 mil. miles, one ticket 5 over and no accidents, 1 dead horse, 1 cow, 5 deer. Good night

  • Thomas Blake

    How about giving us back the split break that stops the 14 hour clock. That would be the best safety rule they could pass.

  • Jim Kennedy

    So, did the FMCSA take into consideration the sleep deprivation of the regular 4 wheel driver, understanding that these vehicles are the majority of vehicles on the road (not to mention the ones causing the most accidents)?

  • Tony mast

    If it was about safety they would allow split sleeper and drop the 14 nonstop rule so we could avoid high traffic times. Trucking is not a one size fits all business and regulation should be flexible

  • Mark Harvill

    Ok i have been out of driveing over the road for some years,but it still amazes me that hours of driveing are still an issue.It commen snese it all come really down to what the driver does. i mean if your tired stop log it,but if your stuck in traffic makes it harder to log things right.The only way i can see any new hours of service to work ,even if they still used the old hours is to raise the rate of pay for drivers.it not really to me the hours you run its the pay.If drivers were payed more then the miles drivers run would be alot less,an drivers would be more rested cause the driver wouldnt be worried about not makeing enough money to send home so much.

  • Rey Moreno

    Lawyer: “Your Honor, I would like to actually see for my own
    eyes this empirical mountain of data the FMCSA claims to have used to evaluate,
    Create, DELENIATE….the new hours of service rules under CFR Title 49,
    Transportation, Part 395.”

    Judge points with his gavel toward an ominous pile of
    stacked paper….

    [The sound of papers being shuffled loudly resonates
    throughout the courtroom.]

    Lawyer: “Your Honor……I would like to submit to the court
    that every single page merely states the word, “DATA,” in singular form. It is
    with great preponderance to conclude that the FMCSA could draw any decision based
    on this pile of “DATA,” and I therefore motion for a mistrial.”

    Judge: “CASE DISMISSED.” Pounding his gavel vigorously…..

  • Madcracka

    And the IRS, EPA, ETC.

  • Madcracka

    Big trucks and drivers are much safer and drive slower then yester year, due to governors, radar, side cameras, safety bonus, and the newer rest time of 10 hours.
    4 wheelers drive faster, talk and text on the phone, there are more cars on the road, than 10 years ago and more electronic distractions built into the car.
    AAA does an excellent review on this.

  • jan johnson

    I think we can do a lot better job if people would get there noise out of our log books. Back on the road do there jobs n quit trying to do ours.

  • jan johnson

    Most of these so call lawmakers really don’t know that most of us drivers are over 50 years we are grandparents. I personally don’t need a sitter. The laws was just fine until they tried to make a name for yourself screwed it all up.

  • jan johnson

    Here is how I work it #1 I don’t care if I’m late I get there when I can safely get there.#2 I’m not in any hurry so you better not push. I will go to bed. #3 there is no load worth loseing your life for. #4 if you don’t understand see rule #1#2#3. When I get to truck stop I want to see more law n order not drunks and whores.

  • pupeperson

    “Drivers stand to benefit from ELD’s?” I don’t see how. Another recent article in Overdrive stated that “anything that can be tracked will be tracked.” That can be taken to it’s next logical conclusion that all ELD’s will contain an RF transmitter that will dump this data as you drive down the road to roadside receivers which will amount to 24/7 monitoring by big brother of EVERYTHING a driver does. It’s an invasion of privacy by an out of control Government that needs to be reined-in. The “American Way” is fast disappearing — a lifestyle is disappearing under the guise of “safety” that has nothing to do with real safety. It’s about control with no flexibility or reason appearing anywhere in the mix. It’s putting drivers back in the cubicle a lot of us left to get away from the excessive monitoring of every single thing one did all day long. To put a visual to it, it’s like taking the “Marlboro Man” off the range and putting him in that 9-5 cubical with the overseer monitoring his every move, and applying the lash when something doesn’t please the “massa.” I for one will resist this way of doing things for as long as I possibly can.
    The “Yessir! Give me one more Sir!” attitude some of the newer dri-vers seem willing to accept isn’t why I became an INDEPENDENT owner/operator of my own business for the last 30 years or so. The Mega companies have never, even with all of their wherewithal, been able to provide the service to a customer that a competent O/O can and will do.

  • jim stewart

    WOW, It’s amazing to find these Star Bucks researches the FMCSA hires are wrong again! How can that possibly be? I felt sure they knew exactly what was best for each of us while capturing actual life on the road experience from behind their desk over looking downtown DC!

  • Steve Larson

    Hmmmm ……lets see……lets try the old rules of service pre 04…with a regular 34 hr restart no two 1-5’s …… with electronic logs and loose the 30 minute break…..oh and increase the 70 hrs in
    8 days to 110 hrs in 11 days …sound crazy ?…not really do the math

  • jojo

    By limiting the restart to 1 every 168hrs it makes it impossible for a driver to work more than 70hrs in an 8 day period. I used to legally log 78+ hrs driving/on duty not driving in an 8 day period by taking advantage of the restart.
    Definitely need to get rid of the 1AM to 5AM clause.

  • jojo

    So What Are You gona do about the FMCSA?
    The Safety Alliances and the ATA are demanding that the FMCSA control US as if WE Were ALL Irresponsible and Dangerous!

    How can We Drivers Blame the government when WE are not telling Our elected officials of the Hazards and Conditions We face daily?
    A registered Voter has The Power to hire and fire those who work for US!
    ELD’s, Speed Limiters, Unrealistic H.O.S., Unjust CSA rules, Parking
    Shortages, Physicals, Sleep Apnea, Insurance Increases and Low Drivers Wages affect us all and need to be realistically addressed.

    Three Ways to Send a Message
    1. Inform your Carrier that you will be taking off at least 3 days during the week of 10/31 thru 11/7. By doing this, You have just told your carrier, the ATA and the shippers/receivers that things need to Change.
    2. You, Your Family and Friends NEED to Call your elected officials in DC. Inform them of your issues at 202-224-3121. It’s EASY and Fast!
    3. Go Home To VOTE! Federal Election Day is 11/4/14.
    As for ME, I’m Going Home 10/31 thru 11/7.

    Drivers, We Are In This Together and We Must Act as Together.

    Pat Hockaday jojo859585@gmail.com

  • g22p

    The 14 hour is the one that just kills me . Long run ,Short run ,Its like having a gun to your head .

  • mr m

    awwww yess, it’s a mess alright. and it keeps getting worse. the interstates are becoming ghost roads. the once great and respected American trucking industry is dying. I think they should have left the regulations alone. and only mandate eobr’s for new driver for the first 24 months of there driving career. mostly as a preventive measure to keep the rookies safe and the highways safe. I also think that drivers with a poor csa score should have to use the eobr as a punishment for not doing right the first time. for those of us that have low csa or zero csa with more then 24 months of experience. should be able to elect eobr or paper logs. and that is weather we are company drivers or owner operator’s. as for the hos regs! there was no need for the change. the threat of the csa score and e-logs was doing the trick in making drivers do the job right.

  • peterbilttater

    I feel as you do, have 19 years verified, no accidents, only 1 ticket, and over 3 million miles logged and I always was the same, I preferred to drive in times when It was less congested and was safer to run, a nap from sun even with eyes to dark, usually 2 hours and same with in bed by sun up and in eyes. I am so glad that I no longer participate in this game anymore, they made it just that by getting rid of us old school drivers and replacing with 2 week junkies who know it all and are willing to do what the company asks and not say “NO” when it is not safe.

  • Jimmy the Greek

    You really believe that ! The first tractor i ever drove was a 1961 brockway It had a cummins with no turbo if i remember right it made 190 hp at 2100 got about 3 mpg and run a 6 inch Flame out of the single stack back then a 3 axle tractor did not have to have brakes on the steer axle , Tou speed was about 61 mph , It was a 8 hour run from Rahway N.J. to boston MA . About 220 miles . My 1998 freightliner Road speed gov set at 74 mph and anti lock brakes can out stop and run circles around the old finder flapping brockway .

  • Tonya

    Nobody listens to the drivers.. Nobody cares about the drivers. They only care about their own stuff, so truckers should really band together no matter what… If all drivers shut down there ain’t nothing no one can do. Not even the sorry ass companies we work for. If every driver took a 34 hour restart at the same time..

  • kelam

    I don’t think it is right we have to take a 30 min break after 8 hours of driving that just means we have to drive harder to get where we are going I think it should go back the way it was before and let us use paper logs

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