Study: U.S. Truck Safety Hit by Changes in HOS Rules

ARLINGTON, VA — New analysis of changes to the 34-hour restart provisions in U.S. hours of service rules for truckers confirms what many in the trucking have been saying since they took effect.

The American Transportation Research Institute, the research arm of the American Trucking Associations, analyzed an extensive truck GPS database to identify changes in truck travel by time of day and day of the week that may have occurred after the change took effect on July 1, 2013.

The analysis identified a shift of truck traffic from nighttime to daytime and a shift of truck traffic away from the weekends to more congested weekdays, with the biggest decreases in truck activity occurring on Sunday nights.

Perhaps more significant, ATRI says its analysis of crash data shows a statistically significant increase in truck crashes after the rule change, specifically injury and tow-away crashes. 

“The increase in injury and tow-away crashes would be expected based on the shifting of trucks to more congested weekday travel due to increased traffic exposure,” ATRI said in a news release.

ATRI’s report includes possible explanations for the GPS and crash data findings as a result of operational changes the industry had to make after July 1, 2013. Among them:

  • Drivers abandoning use of the more restrictive 34-hour restart in favor of the rolling recap,
  • Expanded use of weekend productivity by drivers, particularly Friday into early Saturday driving, and
  • Earlier weekend dispatches for drivers to avoid disruptions to early week operations.

“After many years of crash decreases, everyone knows our industry has experienced an uptick in crashes,” said Dean Newell, vice president of safety at the fleet Maverick USA Inc. and a member of ATRI’s Research Advisory Committee. “This latest analysis from ATRI validates both changes in operations and crash risk that seem to be associated with the restart rule. Regulations should serve to improve safety, not create additional safety risks.” 

The changes in the 34-hour restart limited its use to once every seven days (168 hours) and required the restart to contain two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Those changes were temporarily suspended in December 2014 following legislation passed by Congress that was signed into law by President Obama. The suspension is in effect until the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducts a full study on the operational, safety, health and fatigue aspects of the restart provisions in effect before and after July 1, 2013. 

You can download the report from the ATRI website.


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