ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released the findings of its examination of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) field study report regarding new hours-of-service rules, and the conclusion isn’t good.
FMCSA was instructed by Congress as a part of MAP-21 to study the effectiveness of the restart provisions. The study collected fatigue measurements from 106 truck drivers during two duty cycles that had two restart breaks.
FMCSA claims the study supported the efficacy of the new restart rule, but ARTI identified multiple technical issues including research design flaws, problems with the validitiy of measurement techniques and data conflicts within the study.
The following issues with FMCSA’s report according to ATRI’s official Technical Memorandum are as follows:
- The field study report purports to have measured differences between restarts with one and two nighttime periods (1 a.m. to 5 .a.m.) but instead measured differences in restarts that range from 34 hours to an unknown/non-limited number of hours off-duty.
- MAP-21 required that the field study be “representative of the drivers and motor carriers regulated by the hours of service regulations” but the study includes, on average, less than 12 days’ worth of data for each of only 106 drivers.
- The FMCSA field study does not present research to support the limitation of the use of the 34-hour restart to once per week (168 hours).
- Use of the 3-minute Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT) showed lapses of attention by drivers in both duty cycle groups, but offered no link between the average number of lapses, fatigue and the safe operation of commercial vehicles.
- The two duty cycle groups had lane deviation measurements that differed by 1/10th of a centimeter and the study authors provide no evidence that these findings are relevant or have a nexus to driver fatigue in either of the two groups.
- The difference in sleep obtained by the two duty cycle groups on their restart breaks differed by only six minutes per 24-hour period.
- Average driver scores on the subjective sleepiness scale did not indicate any level of sleepiness.
- The study confirms that drivers in the “two or more nighttime” group are more likely to drive during the day; a time when FMCSA’s own data shows a higher crash risk.
“FMCSA has heard loud and clear from carriers and drivers that the new rules are not advancing safety and are creating additional stress and fatigue on the part of truck drivers,” said Steve Rush, President of Carbon Express. “ATRI’s analysis raises enough questions about FMCSA’s own study that should compel a comprehensive review of the entire rule.”