FMCSA study says new rule is good

Thursday, Feb 13 2014 admin

In long anticipated action, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) finally released the results of its real-world hours-of-service study on January 30th. The main finding of the research says that the current hours-of-service restart rule for truck drivers is a better deterrent for driver fatigue than the rule it replaced. The controversial rule requiring truck drivers to take two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. rest periods in the 34-hour restart provisions was found to more effective in producing safer driving and better rested drivers. The study was conducted by the Sleep Performance Research Center in Washington State University in Spokane, Wash., and Pulsar Informatics in Philadelphia, Pa.

Anthony Foxx U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx

Safety is our top priority, and this new study shows more data-driven evidence that our safety standards help truckers stay well-rested, alert and focused on the road,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The hours-of-service rule is helping to reduce truck driver fatigue and making every traveler on our highways and roads safer.”

The researchers measured sleep, reaction time, sleepiness, and driving performance in 106 drivers, ages 24 – 69, who were studied in two duty cycles and during the 34-hour restarts on each side. Drivers who began their work week with just one nighttime period of rest (not the two nights in the new 34-hour restart rule) exhibited:

  • more lapses of attention, especially at night;
  • greater sleepiness, especially toward the end of their duty periods;
  • increased lane deviation in the morning, afternoon, and night.

The study is one of the largest real world studies ever conducted on truck drivers and was based on 1,260 days of data and 415,000 miles of driving.

FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro stated, “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. For the small percentage of truckers that average up to 70 hours a week, two nights of rest is better for their safety and the safety of everyone on the road.”

The FMCSA says analysis shows that the rule will prevent approximately 1,400 crashes, 560 injuries, and 19 lives each year. Moreover, 85 percent of drivers will see little to no change in their schedules as a result. Only drivers working more than 70 hours in one week will be affected.

Studies by the American Trucking Associations’ American Transportation Research Institute and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association concluded that drivers and carriers would lose productivity and revenue due to the new rule and that drivers actually were less rested on the whole under it.

The FMCSA study was required by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), which said the FMCSA must prove the validity of imposing a new restart provision of the hours-of-service rule for truck drivers. The report was supposed to be  issued by September of 2013, thus prompting criticism by some members of Congress of the FMCSA for not releasing the results until now.

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