Results of FMCSA Restart Study Did Not Benefit Driver Safety, Fatigue, DOT Says

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

A congressionally mandated study on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours-of-service restart rule showed that it “did not explicitly identify a net benefit on driver operations, safety, fatigue and health,” the Department of Transportation Inspector General said March 2.

In a letter to congressional committees, the DOT IG said that the study, not yet released to the public, met all the requirements outlined in a fiscal 2015 funding law.

“We are currently in the final stages of review before transmitting the report to Congress,” said a USDOT spokesperson.

The study compared work schedules and assessed operator fatigue for two groups of drivers — those operating under the original restart provisions and those operating under the July 2013 restart provisions — and were large enough to produce statistically significant results, the IG said.

The suspended 2013 hours-of-service rule required a 34-hour restart with a weekly limit, and two consecutive 1 a.m.- to-5 a.m. rest periods.

American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear said the trucking industry was pleased that the report found no benefit to the “onerous and unjustified restrictions placed on the use of the 34-hour restart by professional drivers.”

“The release of this report closes what has been a long, and unnecessary, chapter in our industry’s drive to improve highway safety,” Spear said. “We knew from the beginning that these Obama administration restrictions provided no benefit to safety, and in light of the DOT’s findings – corroborated by the DOT Inspector General – it is good for our industry and for the motoring public that they will be done away with permanently as specified by language ATA led the charge on, including in the most recently passed continuing resolution.”

ATA has fought against these restrictions —which limited driver flexibility in the use of the restart — since they were first proposed in 2013.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association also expressed approval of the report.

“It’s not only common sense, it’s trucker sense,” said OOIDA executive vice president Todd Spencer. “We have always championed the need for flexibility in the hours-of-service regulations so that drivers can drive when rested and avoid times of heavy congestion or bad weather conditions.”

The study also compared work schedules and assessed safety-critical events and operator fatigue from a statistically significant sample of drivers composed of fleets of all sizes in various industry sectors, including flatbed, refrigerated, tank, and dry van to the extent practicable. It also assessed driver safety-critical events, fatigue, levels of alertness and driver health outcomes by using electronic and hard-copy records of duty status. The study used data from electronic logging devices to the extent practicable and was made subject to “independent peer review,” the IG said.

“In determining whether the final study complied with specific requirements in the act, we did a comparative review of the study plan and final report,” the IG said. “However, we did not separately assess the reliability of the underlying data collected and used in the study given that our earlier review of the study plan showed that the study would use reliable technologies for producing consistent and valid results."