U.S. transport research firm to study 2006 HOS effect

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The American Transportation Research Institute is seeking motor carrier data for a new survey that measures the effects of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s sleeper berth amendment to the hours-of-service rules.

ATRI, a non-profit group that researches freight transportation’s role in maintaining a safe and efficient system, will collect data quarterly in an effort to track changes in driver safety performance and measure it against the overall safety impacts of the previous 2004 hours-of-service rules, which included a more flexible sleeper berth provision.

“Many parts of the trucking industry have expressed concern over the potential safety implications of the new sleeper berth rule,” said Dave Osiecki, the American Trucking Associations’ vice-president of Safety, Security and Operations. “This data collection effort provides a great opportunity for carriers to share their safety experience under this new sleeper berth rule to see how it compares with the previous, more flexible rule. The analysis of this data could form the basis of an argument for change.”

Generally, carriers and drivers liked the 2004 HOS regime
before FMCSA tinkered with the sleeper berth provision

The sleeper berth provision — which is being challenged in court by groups that include the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association, Teamsters Union and Public Citizen — altered the sleeper berth exception affecting drivers’ ability to split sleeper berth time.

The new 2005 rule requires drivers to take eight consecutive hours off as part of their 10-hour, off-duty time. Under the 2003 rule, FMCSA included a provision that allowed drivers to obtain the necessary 10 off-duty hours by splitting their sleeper berth in two periods of their own choosing, as long as one was a minimum of two hours long.

ATRI’s study represents the second stage of data collection as part of its continuing research to measure the safety impacts of the hours-of-service rules changes. Information required includes collision and driver injury data covering the period January 1 through March 31, 2006.

Recently, ATRI published the findings from its first hours-of-service study, “Safety Impacts of the New Hours of Service.” Generally, the research found that the 2004 driver work and rest rules generated significant improvements in driver safety performance over the previous 2003 HOS regulation that was thrown out by the courts in 2004 for “failing to consider the impact on the health of drivers.”

The fleet data from the first study indicates that there were significant decreases in the collision rate per million commercial trucks (-3.7%), preventable collision rate (-4.8%), and non-preventable collision rate (-0.8%). Even larger reductions were observed in the driver injury rate (-12.6%), collision related injury rate (-7.6%), and non-collision injury rate (-13.7%) per million vehicles.

“The findings — both qualitative and quantitative — paint a generally favorable picture of the safety and health impacts of the 2004 HOS rules. The aggregated fleet crash and injury statistics for the 23 participating fleets were the most cogent data in support of the 2004 HOS rules. There were significant decreases in each of the key metrics,” the report states.

Data for the second study by participating motor carriers should be submitted no later than April 30, 2006. ATRI will be collecting this same data on a quarterly basis throughout 2006. Carriers interested in providing data can contact ATRI’s Virginia Dick at vdick@trucking.org.

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