Trucker Fatigue Will Be Evaluated in FMCSA Restart Study

March 28, 2015

In light of recent changes to federal hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, officials at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will be conducting an in-depth study into how these changes may be impacting trucker fatigue. Researchers will be specifically analyzing and comparing the safety and performance of truck drivers who take at least two nighttime rest periods (within their 34-hour restart break) versus those who only take one nighttime rest period during this break.

Given that trucker fatigue is a factor in about 13 percent of all truck accidents that occur each year in the U.S. (according to the FMCSA), regulators are focused on reducing trucker fatigue. They are hoping that the findings of this study aid in their understanding of whether the recent HOS changes have had significant impacts on trucker fatigue and, if so, how substantial these impacts have been on truckers, as well as public safety.

Evaluating Trucker Fatigue: What the FMCSA Restart Study Will Involve

The FMCSA will be conducting a restart study to evaluate whether recent hours-of-service changes have impacted trucker fatigue and public safety.

The FMCSA will be conducting a restart study to evaluate whether recent hours-of-service changes have impacted trucker fatigue and public safety.

According to the FMCSA, this restart study has been ordered by Congress as part of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 (the same Act that also changed the hours-of-service regulations). During the course of this study, the FMCSA’s researchers will “compare 5-month driver work schedules and assess operator fatigue and safety critical events (SCEs) between the following two groups:

  • CMV [commercial motor vehicle] drivers who operate under the hours-of-service (HOS) restart provisions in effect between July 1, 2013 and December 15, 2014.
  • CMV drivers who operate under the provisions as in effect on June 30, 2013.”

The study will include various types of commercial truck drivers, including those who drive flat-bed trucks, refrigerated trucks, dry-vans and tanks. Data regarding participants’ levels of alertness/fatigue, as well as SCEs, will be collected from onboard vehicle monitoring systems, electronic logging devices (which monitor drivers’ on-duty time) and professional evaluations (regarding drivers’ sleepiness versus alertness).

Although we’ll clearly have to wait some months before the results of this study are published, one thing is about the future results is certain – they will certainly displease some, as:

  • Truckers and the trucking industry have been for HOS changes (so findings of increased trucker fatigue resulting from less breaks may distress this demographic)
  • Regulators have been opposed to the recent HOS changes, as U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has noted, “the evidence clearly shows that truck drivers are better rested and more alert after two nights of sleep than one night, and that unending 80-hour work weeks lead to driver fatigue and compromise highway safety” (in a letter to Congress urging them not to change the HOS regulations in December 2014).

When the results of this study become available, you report them to you here in our blog. Stay posted.

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Categories: Blog, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Truck Accidents, Trucker Fatigue