The American Transportation Research Institute today released the results of a new analysis of the safety and operational impacts stemming from the 34-hour restart restrictions put in place with the July 2013 hours of service changes. Those restrictions, which limited restart use to once per week and required two 1-5 a.m. periods in any restart, are currently on hold pending results of a new study required by Congress.
Among other things, ATRI concluded the restrictions resulted in an increase in injury and tow-away accidents involving trucks. As drivers responded to the changes by shifting to more weekday driving to accommodate the 1-5 a.m. periods in the restart, and to a lesser extent from nighttime to daytime driving, more of those lower-intensity crashes resulted.
From the report’s conclusions: “The July 1, 2013, restart rule did, in fact, have the outcome intended by FMCSA; that being the shift of truck trips from nighttime driving to daytime driving. However, the unintended consequence of higher numbers of crashes at other points in the driving schedule also appears to have occurred.”
“After many years of crash decreases, everyone knows our industry has experienced an uptick in crashes,” said Maverick Safety Vice President Dean Newell, also a member of ATRI’s Research Advisory Committee. “This latest analysis from ATRI validates both changes in operations and crash risk that seem to be associated with the restart rule. Regulations should serve to improve safety, not create additional safety risks.”
Overdrive readers have expressed similar sentiment since the introduction of the 2013 hours rules. In the following poll, conducted last December as Congress was considering a rollback to the restart restrictions, a sizable majority indicated belief that removing the restrictions would be a boon to highway safety.
ATRI analyzed an extensive truck GPS database to identify changes in truck travel by time of day and day of the week after the July 1, 2013, change to the restart. ATRI also examined several years of pre- and post-July 1 federal truck crash data to quantify safety impacts.
The identified shift in truck traffic from the weekends and evenings was most pronounced on Sunday night, a low-traffic, low-exposure period. Statistically significant increases in truck crashes were confined to injury and towaway crashes all told, not fatality events.
ATRI controlled for overall economic improvement and its effects on crash statistics (better economy = more traffic) by utilizing percentage change and tonnage growth percentages over the two-year period, which were relatively constant. In addition, the organization said, truck unit position points are a better indicator of physical truck movements than freight volumes.
ATRI’s report features some possible explanations for the GPS and crash data findings as a result of operational changes the industry had to make post-July 1, 2013. Among those confirmed were some Overdrive readers themselves have identified:
**Drivers abandoning use of the more restrictive 34-hour restart in favor of the rolling recap.
**Expanded use of weekend productivity by drivers, particularly Friday into early Saturday driving.
**Earlier weekend dispatches for drivers to avoid disruptions to early week (Monday-Tuesday) operations.