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January 30, 2014 5:30 PM, EST
HOS Study Proves Benefits of New Restart Restrictions, FMCSA Says
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

A new study found that the restart provision in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration‘s current hours-of-service rule is more effective at combating fatigue than the prior hours rule, the agency said.

The “real world, third-party” study, mandated by the MAP-21 transportation law, provided scientific evidence that the restart provision helps “truckers stay well-rested, alert and focused on the road,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a Jan. 30 statement.

The hours rule, which became effective July 1, requires any driver working long enough to need a restart to take off at least 34 consecutive hours that include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

The study found that drivers who began their work week with just one nighttime period of rest, as compared with the two nights in the updated 34-hour restart break, exhibited more lapses of attention, reported greater sleepiness and showed increased lane deviation in the morning, afternoon and at night.

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

American Trucking Associations said it is concerned that FMCSA did not thoroughly study all of the effects of the rule.

“We appreciate FMCSA releasing the results of its restart field study,” Dave Osiecki, ATA’s executive vice president and chief of national advocacy, said in a statement. “However, in many respects this short report is lacking critical analyses on several important issues.”

Specifically, the study did not examine the new provision that the restart can only be used once every seven days. It also did not address the extent to which the provision would push drivers to work in the morning rush hour and its effect on congestion and safety, ATA said, calling the study “incomplete.”

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), a longtime opponent of the restart changes, called the study “worthless.”

He criticized its sample size of 100 drivers from three carriers and that it did not study the rush hour aspect.

“This half-baked study only underscores the need to legislatively delay the rule and have [Government Accountability Office] conduct an independent analysis of the study so we can get a credible account of what this rule will truly mean for the safety of truckers, commuters and businesses,” Hanna said in a statement.

Hanna has proposed legislation to repeal the restart changes until GAO can assess them.

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