Hours reforms process swirling, ATRI and Trucker Nation push sleep studies to back 14-hour flexibility

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Updated Sep 2, 2018

In kicking off its potential hours of service reforms process last week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration cited two specific proposals brought to the agency as starting points to the hours conversation at large. At the core of both of those proposals is a chief — if not the chief — wish for many owner-operators: an end to the straight 14-hour clock.

Groups advocating for flexibility in the so-deemed 14-hour rule say they have research to back up their cause. The American Transportation Research Institute on Tuesday released results of a study that ATRI says lends strong credence to allowing drivers to break up their 10-hour off-duty period (and, thus, their 14-hour on-duty period) into segments. The study “found that drivers could spend less time and money driving the same distances behind the wheel,” ATRI said in a press release Tuesday.

ATRI’s study focused on a 40-mile stretch of a usually congested highway in Atlanta, with drivers operating under the straight 14-hour clock and then running the same stretch with an allowance for segmenting their 10-hour off-duty time into splits of 7/3, 6/4 and 5/5. Flexible hours options saved drivers more than 45 minutes of drive-time on average, ATRI’s research concludes.

Likewise, Trucker Nation leaned on sleep studies to support its proposal to allow drivers to use the same type of split-sleeper flexibility.

Studies performed by the New Jersey Institute of Science and Technology and by the National Sleep Institute “support the concept of intermittent resting rather than one block of rest,” says Andrea Marks, director of communications for Trucker Nation. “We used that data and came up with a realistic petition based on what we were hearing from our members and what we could back up with data,” she told Overdrive on Wednesday.

Trucker Nation’s plan is one specifically cited by FMCSA in its Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (the agency’s vehicle for receiving industry input on a potential rule to overhaul hours regs). Trucker Nation advocates for allowing drivers to take their 10-hour off-duty time in whatever increments they like in the course of a 24-hour period while not running over 14 cumulative on-duty hours.

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Marks in a listening session held at the Great American Trucking Show last week on hours reforms equated their petition’s use of the 10-hour break with that of a $10 bill. “You can use it over your 14-hour on-duty period at any time in $3 increments or $5 and $5 increments or $3, $3 and $4,” she said.

The other proposal specifically cited by FMCSA is a petition filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association early this year. It would allow drivers to effectively pause their 14-hour clock once a day for up to three hours and, with that, an end to the 30-minute break requirement. OOIDA says its plan better “reflect[s] the physical capabilities or limitations of individual drivers” and would no longer “force drivers to be on the road when they are tired or fatigued, during busy travel times and adverse weather and road conditions.”

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