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Via Sam Butler/Flickr
Via Sam Butler/Flickr

The hours-of-service restart rules for commercials truckers will likely remain suspended through February. That’s a few months longer than expected, according to FMCSA officials.

A law that went into effect in December 2014 suspended FMCSA’s rule requiring truck drivers to take off two consecutive periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. during a 34-hour restart.

It will remain suspended until the CMV Driver Restart Study final report is submitted to Congress. The study is designed to measure and compare the fatigue and safety performance levels of truck drivers in a naturalistic environment while using two different versions of the hours-of-service (HOS) restart provisions. Hours of service is directly tied to fatigue, which is an important trucking safety issue.

“The statute provides the Inspector General 60 days to conduct its review,” Duane DeBruyne, a spokesperson for the FMCSA, recently told Transport Topics. “That means OIG has until mid-February to finalize its review of the study. The study is to address whether the rule has safety benefits and is better for drivers in terms of fatigue, health and work schedules.”

What the Study Analyzes

The study compares 5-month work schedules and assesses SCEs (e.g., crashes, near-crashes, and crash-relevant conflicts), operator fatigue/alertness, and short-term health outcomes among CMV drivers operating under a 1-night rest period versus drivers operating under a rest period with 2 or more nights.

It also analyzes the safety and fatigue effects on CMV drivers who have less than 168 hours between their restart periods and those drivers who have at least 168 hours between their restart periods. Drivers were recruited from small, medium, and large fleets across a variety of operations (long-haul, short-haul, and regional) and different sectors of the industry (flat-bed, refrigerated, tank, and dry-van).

The study uses data collected from:

  • Electronic logging devices (ELDs) (which track drivers’ time on duty).
  • Psychomotor Vigilance Tests (PVTs) (which measure alertness).
  • Actigraph watches (which assess sleep).
  • Camera-based onboard monitoring systems (which record or measure SCEs and driver alertness).
  • Smartphone-based self-report questionnaires that measure sleepiness, stress, hours slept, and caffeine intake.

What’s Next

An initial study plan, which was peer-reviewed by a panel of independent experts with relevant medical and scientific qualifications, was published in March of 2015.

The final report and findings will undergo a similar independent peer review. The Secretary submitted an outline of the study’s scope and methodology to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Inspector General. The Secretary will also submit the final report to the Inspector General.

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