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FMCSA: Restart Improves Driver Awareness

A New Study Shows That The New HOS Restart Rules Are Making Driver More Alert And Less Fatigued.

2/7/2014 by Michal Olszewski

Because of the recently enacted Hours of Service (HOS) rules, truck drivers are less dangerous on the road.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released the results of a study that provided further evidence that the restart provision in the current HOS rules for truck drivers is much more effective at combatting fatigue than the prior version of the rule.

"Safety is our top priority, and this new study shows more data-driven evidence that our safety standards help truckers stay well-rested, alert and focused on the road," United States Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in statement. "The hours-of-service rule is helping to reduce truck driver fatigue and making every traveler on our highways and roads safer."

The FMCSA found that truck drivers who began a work week with only one nighttime rest period under the old 34-hour restart of cumulative on-duty hours were far less attentive, more tired and prone to drifting across lanes more than drivers who began with two nighttime periods of rest, as required by the revised HOS restart.

Due to an alteration of the HOS regulations that took effect in July, the 34-hour restart of cumulative weekly hours must include at least two nighttime periods from 1 AM to 5 AM. The previous restart rules did not include any conditions for the time of day, so, in effect, the restart required only one nighttime rest period.

The Washington State University Sleep and Performance Research Center and Philadelphia-based Pulsar Informatics conducted the study, which was comprised of 106 participants, 1,260 days of data and approximately 415,000 miles of driving that was electronically recorded.

The study calculated sleep, reaction times and driving performance. The results showed drivers with one nighttime rest period in their restart compared to those operating with two nighttime rest periods:

  • Demonstrated more lapses of attention, particularly at night
  • Reported more sleepiness, especially near the end of shifts
  • Exposed increased lane drifting in the morning, afternoon and 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 in a statement. "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."

Along with stating the new 34-hour restart from a safety standpoint, the FMCSA argues the effect of the new restart operationally is not as great as the industry has stated. The FMCSA said that more than 85 percent of truck drivers have seen little to no change in their schedules as an outcome.

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