Safety & Compliance

No 'Net Benefit' Found in Controversial 34-Hour Restart Provisions

March 06, 2017

By Deborah Lockridge and David Cullen

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Photo: Jim Park
Photo: Jim Park

A DOT study apparently has failed to “explicitly identify a net benefit” from two suspended provisions of the hours of service rules regarding the 34-hour restart.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued hours-of-service regulations in 2013 that featured two controversial restart provisions. They required that the 34-hour restart include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods, even if the 34 hours had already been reached. It also limited use of the restart provision to once every 168 hours. The trucking industry raised concerns about the rule’s unintended consequences, such as increased congestion during daytime traffic hours.

In late 2014, as part of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, Congress suspended those two provisions and directed FMCSA to conduct a study of the operational, safety, health, and fatigue impacts of these rules.

Although the data collection for that study was completed in 2015, the study has not yet been made public. But a DOT spokesperson told HDT on March 6 that "we are currently in the final stages of review before transmitting the report to Congress."

The law also mandated that the DOT's Office of Inspector General review the study. Last week, in a letter to Congress, the OIG wrote that it “found that DOT’s study met the act’s requirements. We also concur with the Department’s conclusion that the study did not explicitly identify a net benefit from the use of the two suspended provisions on driver operations, safety, fatigue, and health.”

Drivers from a variety of fleet sizes and operations provided a substantial amount of data during the study period, according to FMCSA. More than 220 drivers contributed data as they drove their normal routes. The data included over 3,000 driver duty cycles captured by electronic logging devices, over 75,000 driver alertness tests, and more than 22,000 days of driver sleep data.

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear said the trucking industry was pleased by the news.

"The release of this report closes what has been a long, and unnecessary, chapter in our industry's drive to improve highway safety," Spear said. "We knew from the beginning that these Obama administration restrictions provided no benefit to safety, and in light of the DOT's findings – corroborated by the DOT Inspector General – it is good for our industry and for the motoring public that they will be done away with permanently as specified by language ATA lead the charge on including in the most recently passed Continuing Resolution."

ATA has fought against these restrictions – which limited drivers' flexibility in the use of the restart – since they were first proposed in 2013.

"Congress repeatedly told the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that rules of this nature must show a benefit to safety and this report clearly shows there was no benefit," Spear said. "This marks the end of a long struggle, but hopefully the beginning of a new era of inclusive and data-based regulation."

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association also was quick to respond to the news. “It’s not only common sense, it’s trucker sense,” said OOIDA executive vice president, Todd Spencer, in a statement. “We have always championed the need for flexibility in the hours-of-service regulations so that drivers can drive when rested and avoid times of heavy congestion or bad weather conditions.”

Lane Kidd, managing director of the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, told HDT that “the results of the restart study were no surprise, since the Congress set the bar very high that the federal agency had to meet to justify the net safety benefits of the new rule.”

“The OIG’s assessment of the restart study supports what the industry has been saying all along, that requiring two consecutive periods of 1-5 a.m. and limiting the restart to once a week didn't contain any net benefit to the industry,” David Heller, the Truckload Carriers Association’s vice president of government affairs told HDT.

He added that TCA “looks forward to working with the Trump administration on promulgating future rules regarding truck drivers hours of service that make sense for the whole industry.”

Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs and communications for the Western States Trucking Association, told HDT that the group also was "not really surprised by the finding and don’t think many others are in trucking, either.

"The whole issue of the 34-hour restart provision had been politicized in our opinion," he added, "and it's nice to see a government agency actually use science appropriately to arrive at the correct result-– it's just too bad they sat on the findings for so long."

The Teamsters union has come out strongly against the report’s conclusion, contending that DOT “fails to recognize the benefit of well-rested truckers” to overall highway safety.

"The rollback of these rules is short-sighted and one that could jeopardize the lives of Americans traveling on the nation's thoroughfares,” Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa said in a statement. “Truckers, like most of us, do their job better when they get proper rest. That was more likely under the HOS rules originally approved in 2013 that required drivers to take two nighttime breaks during a 34-hour period and only use their restart once a week.” 

Hoffa added that the “consequences of curtailing rest breaks could be quite real. Already, nearly 4,000 lives are claimed each year on U.S. highways in accidents involving tractor-trailers. And in the most recent available numbers from 2013, 97% of vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck were occupants of passenger vehicles."

Comments

  1. 1. Corey [ March 06, 2017 @ 03:17PM ]

    Now if the DOT and the ATA would get it through their thick heads that ELD's will not improve safety, we might really have something to cheer about !!

  2. 2. bernard llinkhauer [ March 07, 2017 @ 03:35AM ]

    thats what happens when you have people doing things that have no idea what they are doing, the govenrment does like the small business man to get a head , they want all the money and control over it . greed is a terrible thing and the great united states of america is loaded with it

  3. 3. MC [ March 07, 2017 @ 05:19AM ]

    What some people fail to understand is that regulations exist because people put money ahead of health, safety and just doing the right thing in general. When self-policing stops, regulators move in.
    Unfortunately, regulators only know what the complaints are and what lobbyists tell them. Until they can run their own studies, much of their info is laced with exaggerations, misinformation and sometimes outright lies. Depending on the complaint (and sometimes who is involved), some legislators shoot from the hip and impose the first idea the comes down the pike and use that as a trial-and-error study. Everyone is forced to do it during the trial period without any evidence if it even working - which is the scenario we have here with the 34-hour restart, Likely someone famous or someone related to a politician was killed due to a sleepy truck driver because he/she spent far too much time on the road without reasonable downtime to rest, so the 34-hour restart was crammed down everyone's throats.
    As far as ELDs go, it's happening...so get used to it. Truckers, dispatchers and companies have been pushing way too hard and 'cooking the books' for decades and it's killed far too many people to be ignored any longer. Quit crying about it and find a way to use it to your advantage (as some people already have), or find another profession. Eventually, ELDs will lead to better pay for drivers and more efficient cargo deliveries as companies will work to eliminate unnecessary downtime (like sitting at a dock for hours).

  4. 4. lee lenard [ March 08, 2017 @ 08:16AM ]

    Corey & Bernard, on target....MC, doubtful if works in trucking industry and if so not as a driver or first level of management.....most legislators now do not read the bills they vote for and have no first hand knowledge about what they vote for....yes, some group (lobbyist) tell them how to vote depending on that groups benefits regardless what it does to the actual industry being regulated. If the teamsters want the 2 night back to back off or some variation of the 34 hour rule, fine, put that in THEIR work rule and have their employees work accordingly. That is how ELD should work also....yes for the drivers that work 12 hours less per day then go home, ELD is perfect....for 14 hour per day and over the road or multi day trips, ELD's are the most dangerous thing ever imposed upon the public. ELD's force drivers to break every rule of driving to compy with the unforgiving rule that just needs often a extra 15 -20 min to drive safely and get to where you need to be.....I have never been able to extract any safe benefit to the 30 min rule while setting beside the road looking into the dark or watching traffic go by just to have 30 minute off in a location with no benefit to driver!

  5. 5. Joe Nonnemaker [ March 08, 2017 @ 03:21PM ]

    As a mechanic in small fleet and brother to an own-operator, ELD don't really accomplish its goal, unless goal is to put people out of business and to get less done, I've seen driver have to quit early and stop at a rest area because they will run out of time till next legal rest stop , that put a 2 day trip into 21/2 days which turn into 3 day trip because of loading times and unloading times, real issue of driver rest can not be clocked by ELD can only be controlled by the driver himself, as was seen in NJ turnpike with Walmart truck? Was Walmart really at fault or the guy behind the wheel that didn't rest while off clock, how do you record if a driver rest for real? There are far more things to be regulated I my self would start with STUPID when we solve that one then move on, there are plenty of rules in the book to enforce most fall under reckless driving so get the truck moving lane to lane going way to fast pushing traffic, and those poor people commuting and getting groceries to look out for the BIG TRUCK who by the way in the mining field ALLWAYS HAVE THE RIGHTOFWAY. I REALLY DISLIKE THE FACT THAT ANYONE HAS THEIR SALARY CAPPED BECAUSE SOMEONE THINKS IT WOULD BE SAFER BUT WHAT ABOUT THE YOUNG GUY THAT WORK A DOUBLE AT THE WARE HOUSE GETS OFF WORK AND FELL ASLEEP ON HIS WAY HOME WERE IS HIS ELD

  6. 6. Lisa [ March 20, 2017 @ 02:33AM ]

    Joe, I run e logs, if you run out of hours you are not doing proper trip planning, unless there is some unforeseen incident. You are also allowed a few minutes of violation to get somewhere safe. Walmart is a prime example, you are not allowed to stay on their property, even if you are out of hours. DOT looks at a % rate of HOS violations. I have only been doing this for almost 5 years, but even I am smart enough to know that with good trip planning you should not have HOS violation. E logs in my opinion are a good thing, you can still pull 700 miles in a day if you have to, but it depends on what state you are in and that would apply to paper logs as well, unless you are smudging your books, which not only is ilegal but unsafe as well

 

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