The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute is heading the Federal Motor Carrier Administration’s study of the 34-hour restart provision of the Hours of Service rule for truck drivers.
The study will measure the impact on the safety performance and fatigue levels of truck drivers who take two nighttime rest periods during a given 34-hour restart break.
VTTI is seeking to recruit 250 truck drivers for the on-the-road study, which will involve tracking and assessing driver performance and short-term health outcomes over a five-month period.
Drivers will be split into two groups, one taking two rest periods during a 34-hour restart break and the other taking less than two.
“We are excited by the opportunity and have assembled a world class team to lead this landmark study,” said Richard Hanowski, director of the safety center at VTTI. “We have an opportunity to perform ground-breaking research that will have an impact for decades to come.”
To produce a representative sample of drivers, the study will include truckers from small, medium and large fleets in long-haul, short-haul and regional operations. There will also be variation in the sectors of the industry, including flatbed, reefer, tank and dry-van trailers.
Drivers will be tracked and evaluated using ELDs to track duty status, a Psychomotor Vigilance Test to measure alertness, and Actigraph watches to assess sleep. The trucks will also be equipped with onboard monitoring systems and cameras to record and measure SCEs and driver alertness. The Karolinska Sleepiness Scale will be used to measure a driver’s own assessment of sleepiness as well.
“We have coordinated similar projects that were smaller,” said Hanowski. “This will be the largest study of its kind ever performed using commercial vehicle drivers.”
VTTI will produce a final report after the data has been collected and analyzed. The report will be subjected to independent peer review panels by medical and scientific experts before ultimately being delivered to the Department of Transportation and Congress. VTTI has previously carried out FMCSA studies on driver fatigue and HOS regulations as well as other driver safety related issues.
“Truck driver fatigue is a prevalent problem and is a tremendous safety concern on our nation’s highways,” said Thomas A. Dingus, director of VTTI. “We are privileged to have the resources necessary to help inform policy makers in a collaborative effort to significantly reduce the number of safety-critical events occurring on our roadways.”