Safety & Compliance

Field Study Proving Benefit of Restart Rule Draws Criticism

January 30, 2014

By Oliver Patton

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ATA and others are critical of results of a study on the new hours of service rules. (Photo by Jim Park)
ATA and others are critical of results of a study on the new hours of service rules. (Photo by Jim Park)

A field test of the 34-hour restart provision of the new hours of service rule shows that the restrictions improve safety.

The test found that the provision, which requires drivers to take two successive periods off between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. during their once-a-week restart, is more effective at combating fatigue than the earlier rule, said the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The restart is the most controversial part of the new hours of service rule the agency implemented last July, and early reaction to the study was negative.

American Trucking Associations fought the restart in court and lost, then took the fight to Capitol Hill, enlisting legislators to propose bills that would suspend it pending an assessment by the Government Accountability Office. Those bills are awaiting action.

ATA’s contention has been that the provision cuts into productivity without improving safety. A key ATA complaint is that the agency did not have scientific justification for the restart restriction. The agency relied on a laboratory study when it should have tested those results in the field, ATA said.

At the association’s urging, Congress in the 2012 highway bill ordered the naturalistic field study that the agency released Thursday.

The study compared drivers who had one nighttime period of rest rather than the two required in the rule. It found that the former had more lapses of attention, were sleepier, particularly toward the end of their shifts, and showed more lane deviations.

“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,” said agency chief Anne Ferro 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.”

Ferro has said that about 15% of all drivers fall into this category, and that the provision will prevent 1,400 crashes and save 19 lives a year.

The study, conducted in the first six months of last year,, involved 106 drivers from three companies, 100 men and six women, who covered almost 415,000 miles. The researchers, Hans Van Dongen and Daniel Mollicone of Washington State University, said this study is among the largest of its kind.

The drivers’ ages ranged from 24 to 69 years, and their experience ranged from less than a year to 39 years. Most (103) were employees of carriers in a variety of businesses, including intermodal, dedicated, flatbed, temperature control and truckload. The other three were owner-operators contracted to a carrier.

Their operations were roughly divided into three categories: local, regional and over-the-road.

The drivers tracked their hours with electronic logs and wore wrist monitors to gauge their wakefulness and sleep patterns through a variety of restart schedules. Fatigue levels were measured three times a day through a Psychomotor Vigilance Test, and the trucks were equipped with lane tracking systems.

The researchers said the field study bears out the results of the laboratory study FMCSA used to justify the restart rule.

“These results indicate that having at least two nighttime periods from 1 a.m. until 5 a.m. in the restart break helps to mitigate fatigue, providing evidence in support of the efficacy of the new restart rule,” they said.

‘Worthless,’ Says Hanna

Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., author of a House bill that would suspend the restart provision, panned the study and said it only underscores the need to suspend it.

“Considering the study arrived four months late, I expected a robust report, but the study is worthless,” he said in a statement.

He complained that the study looked at too small a sample and added that it does not address “perhaps the most serious issue that could change the entire outcome of the study – forcing truckers to work in the morning rush hour when roads are most congested and dangerous.”

“This half-baked study only underscores the need to legislatively delay the rule and have GAO conduct an independent analysis of the study so we can get a credible account of what this rule will truly mean for the safety of truckers, commuters and businesses.”

ATA’s response was more measured but still negative.

“We appreciate FMCSA releasing the results of its restart field study,” said Dave Osiecki, ATA executive vice president and chief of national advocacy. “However, in many respects this short report is lacking critical analyses on several important issues.”

Specifically, Osiecki said the study found “incrementally slower reaction times” among drivers with less rest and that FMCSA was cautious in suggesting how important these findings are.

He also said the study does not look at a second feature of the provision, the one limiting it to once-a-week use. And, like Hanna, he noted that the study does not look at the effect of the rule on traffic congestion. 

“While the study includes some findings favorable to certain portions of the new restart rule, the incomplete nature of the analysis and the lack of justification for the once-weekly use restriction is consistent with the flawed analyses that led the agency to make these changes in the first place,” Osiecki said.


  1. 1. John [ January 30, 2014 @ 07:02PM ]

    Wow! FMCSA did this study? And proved the current 34 hr restart is good? Go figure. The EXACT results Anny predicted!
    This 6 month study proved those 106 drivers did NOT work very much! Their miles averaged 3915, for the entire 6 month period, or about 652 miles per month each! All this article proves, is how FLAWED Anny and her studies really are!
    Before July 1st, I ran 73,000 miles. But due to NOT being able to get in before 1am several times, I only got 59,000 the 2nd half of the year.
    Trucking is an irregular schedule job, that most real drivers get used to. So having to take a set scheduled break to restart our hours is JUST PLAIN STUPID!

  2. 2. Tom Pydo [ January 31, 2014 @ 03:14AM ]

    I agree with John this study is totally worthless not representative of any real life scenario I am aware of. Putting drivers into rush hour traffic and making them try to sleep when their body is used to working is a mistake.

  3. 3. Harry [ January 31, 2014 @ 03:17AM ]

    How 50 hours off to get 34 hours does not make sense. professional drivers learn to deal with 34 off and get there rest and do there work. The FMCSA is to much government. The rule cost efficiency and loads that are aviable that we can haul thus cutting our miles down and our income

  4. 4. Amish Trucker [ January 31, 2014 @ 05:35AM ]

    The current administration does not care about productivity in the private sector. They want to be able to get in front of the country once a year and say "look at all the jobs WE created." Less productivity in trucking means more drivers are needed. But rather than send 12 unemployed people to driving school, they invite them to Washington to use as a breathing power point presentation for the State of the Union. So really, it's not even about getting people to work. The only reason people go to work in Washington is for personal gain and/or notoriety. It's one big dog and pony show and a route to a lucrative career either in government or in the "consulting" business afterwards. This personal greed has left us with a weak and ineffective legislative branch which allows the executive branch to exert more unchecked authority over the American people. It allows them to get away with passing "rules" based on studies that are absolutely idiotic in their complete lack of credibility. 650 miles?? These drivers were tired because they didn't work enough.

  5. 5. TruckMike [ January 31, 2014 @ 07:51AM ]

    Who the heck set-up this study?
    Extremely flawed!
    The drive then averaged only 3,915 miles in 6 months, or 30.3 miles per Work day!! I don' even know of one driver on local doing that few of miles.
    I drive about double that in my car.
    Let's rerun the study in real world.

  6. 6. K Goodson [ January 31, 2014 @ 09:55AM ]

    The study period was six months, but the drivers were not followed for all of the six months. The drivers averaged close to 11 hours a day during the time which they were studied. Most were only followed for 12 days. Looks like most drove around 300+ miles per day.

  7. 7. pete schram [ February 01, 2014 @ 03:33PM ]

    How meany of the crash that say will be stoped are from sleep deprived car drivers

  8. 8. K.D. [ February 08, 2014 @ 07:07AM ]

    I will be finishing my CDL training with Sage in 8 days. Im 40 yrs old and tire of being laid off in my normal job which is heavy equipment operating which ive been doing for 20+ years. I was hoping to just make a more stable paycheck in trucking. Im starting to think Im making a big mistake becoming a professional driver. These hours of service while im sure are good intentioned are absurd. Think about this, when I am working I work up to 14 to 16hrs a day and am allowed to drive as a 4 wheeler any amount of time on public road ways after with no regulations on time off or sleep and turn right around and go to work again the next day over and over, but if your job requires you to drive to make a paycheck they then regulate how much you can drive and when you have to sleep.

  9. 9. Paul Johnson [ February 12, 2014 @ 12:33PM ]

    I can understand the FMCSA wanting a once a week only 34 hour restart but as for the 1am to 5am rule needs to be revised. There are to many truck drivers and companies that are working during that time to make it feasible for this rule to work. This part of the rule has cost drivers and companies millions of dollars.

  10. 10. joey eller [ February 13, 2014 @ 06:13AM ]

    k.d you did make a mistake youd be better off sellin drugs whole lot less trouble and the law don't harass you as much

  11. 11. Alex the trucker [ April 13, 2014 @ 10:19PM ]

    It's all about competition, it's the next step after CSA2010 which is the that huge program did nothing but shutting down a lot of small fleet owners, (2 drivers out of 10 gets out of service inspection will but the company at high resk!) then, a"must inspect level" at all the weight station, then DOT audit, and finally shut down. Then the owner will open a new authority with different name and address and pay double for insurance and try again for couple of years to get back to where he start from, and now the HOS regulations, its all in the big companies benefits, who have electronic logs AND can do the restart from their base within less than a minute and have their drivers runs legal again!!
    Small fleet owners can't afford to pay for the new excessive insurance premiums (average 9k/truck/year) and electronic logs (3k /truck / year) + plates+Maintenance+IFTA++++etc..
    While the "big fishes" are self insured and getting the best rates ever for any orders they make because of the quantities. Their goal is to get these small fishes out of the industry so they can charge their own rates to the customers and finally you and me we pay the different.


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