The Dept. of Transportation’s release of new research findings has rekindled the debate over whether the hours-of-service rule for truck drivers combats fatigue. DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states that this third-party study provides more scientific evidence of the provision’s effectiveness.
“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.”
Scientists measured sleep, reaction time, sleepiness and driving performance in the study. They found that drivers who began their work week with just one nighttime period of rest, as compared to the two nights in the updated 34-hour restart break:
- Exhibited more lapses of attention, especially at night;
- Reported greater sleepiness, especially toward the end of their duty periods; and
- Showed increased lane deviation in the morning, afternoon and at night.
The study was conducted by the Washington State University Sleep and Performance Research Center and Philadelphia-based Pulsar Informatics, Inc. Their analysis estimates that the rule will prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries, and save 19 lives each year.
American Trucking Associations officials believe what the report doesn’t say may be as significant as what it does.
“The study acknowledges that the two or more night restart periods result in more trucks on the road during the day, but it does not address the corresponding safety or congestion impacts,” said Dave Osiecki, ATA executive vice president and chief of national advocacy. “While the study includes some findings favorable to certain portions of the new restart rule, the incomplete nature of the analysis and the lack of justification for the once-weekly use restriction is consistent with the flawed analyses that led the agency to make these changes in the first place.”
ATA believes the report failed to evaluate the safety effects or efficacy of the once-per-week restart restriction, commonly called the 168 hour rule. Similarly, they say the study did not address the real-world safety implications of putting more trucks on the road during daytime hours, a time when more passenger vehicles are also on the road.