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January 13, 2015 11:30 AM, EST

FMCSA to Award Contract for HOS Study This Month, Senior Official

WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration plans to name a research firm later this month that would conduct its yearlong review of a new hours-of-service rule suspended through the end of September, a senior agency official said Jan. 13.

Martin Walker, head of FMCSA’s research division, said the firm that receives the contract would need to measure fatigue and performance levels of drivers who take a two-night rest period during a 34-hour restart to those who take less than a two-night period.

The agency is seeking drivers for the study who record about 60 to 70 hours a week, and work primarily at night. The drivers would need to come from various sectors of the industry at small and large fleets. By law, the firm has a year to complete the study, Walker said.

“FMCSA is working very diligently, and we are … working very hard to ensure that this study is contracted and awarded later this month,” Walker said, at a panel at the annual Transportation Research Board conference here. “We’re going to compare five months of driver work schedule” to review safety data.

Information about how to participate in the study is on FMCSA’s website.

On Dec. 16, President Obama signed a $1 trillion fiscal 2015 funding bill into law that suspended through Sept. 30 FMCSA’s requirement that drivers take off two consecutive periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. during a 34-hour restart.

Key congressional leaders had the suspension of the new restart rule included in legislation.

The suspension was backed by the trucking industry, which argued the new hours-of-service rules had not been sufficiently studied. Proponents of the rule countered that suspending it would add tired drivers on roadways.

Truckers still are required to account for a 30-minute break during their shifts, and follow pre-July 2013 hours-of-service regulations.