ATRI report refutes FMCSA study on HOS

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) recently released the findings of its independent evaluation of FMCSA’s HOS study and the ATRI report is heavily critical of the federal document.

ATRI’s Technical Memorandum cites the following issues with FMCSA’s report:

  • The field study report purports to have measured differences between restarts with one and two nighttime periods (1 a.m. to 5 .a.m.) but instead measured differences in restarts that range from 34 hours to an unknown/non-limited number of hours off-duty.
  • MAP-21 required that the field study be “representative of the drivers and motor carriers regulated by the hours of service regulations” but the study includes, on average, less than 12 days’ worth of data for each of only 106 drivers.
  • The FMCSA field study does not present research to support the limitation of the use of the 34-hour restart to once per week (168 hours).
  • Use of the 3-minute Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT) showed lapses of attention by drivers in both duty cycle groups, but offered no link between the average number of lapses, fatigue and the safe operation of commercial vehicles.
  • The two duty cycle groups had lane deviation measurements that differed by one-tenth of a centimeter and the study authors provide no evidence that these findings are relevant or have a nexus to driver fatigue in either of the two groups.
  • The difference in sleep obtained by the two duty cycle groups on their restart breaks differed by only six minutes per 24-hour period.
  • Average driver scores on the subjective sleepiness scale did not indicate any level of sleepiness.
  • The study confirms that drivers in the “two or more nighttime” group are more likely to drive during the day; a time when FMCSA’s own data shows a higher crash risk.
  • More lapses of attention, especially at night
  • Greater sleepiness, especially toward the end of their duty periods
  • Increased lane deviation (i.e., more variability in lateral lane position) in the morning, afternoon and at night

FMCSA wasted no time in responding to the ATRI report, stating that it stands by the validity of its field-study report on the efficacy of the restart provisions within the current Hours-of-Service (HOS) rule

“ATRI’s report is an attempt to cloud the fact that the updated Hours-of-Service rule is working to ensure that truck drivers who work extreme schedules of up to 70 hours a week are getting the recuperation time they need before getting back behind the wheel,” said FMCSA Director of Communications Marissa Padilla. “A well-rested commercial driver is a safer driver.”

Padilla went on to state that the third-party study commissioned by FMCSA released earlier this year is one of the largest real-world studies ever conducted with commercial drivers and it found that drivers who began their work week following a 34-hour restart break with just one nighttime period of rest, as compared to two, experienced:

  • More lapses of attention, especially at night
  • Greater sleepiness, especially toward the end of their duty periods
  • Increased lane deviation (i.e., more variability in lateral lane position) in the morning, afternoon and at night

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said the agency’s field 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. 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 added.

Steve Rush, president of Carbon Express Inc. in Wharton, New Jersey, does not agree with the FMCSA position.

“FMCSA has heard loud and clear from carriers and drivers that the new rules are not advancing safety and are creating additional stress and fatigue on the part of truck drivers,” said Rush. “ATRI’s analysis raises enough questions about FMCSA’s own study that should compel a comprehensive review of the entire rule,” he added.

In early April, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa) and Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Tom Petri (R-WI) asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to evaluate the two studies.

“I continue to hear concerns from drivers and companies in Wisconsin and around the country about the impact of this 34-hour restart,” Petri said.  “We need to make sure the requirements are based on sound facts and actually improve safety rather than just overwhelm the industry with another onerous regulation.”

Shuster echoed Petri’s concerns. “Millions of American truckers are critical to the flow of commerce in our country, and we have to be certain that any changes to regulations impacting their ability to properly do their jobs and earn a living are well founded,” said Shuster.

“Concerns have been raised that these regulatory changes may have been enacted without proper data or analysis, and if the Administration is going to change the rules on truck drivers, we need to know that the changes were thoroughly vetted and will improve safety,” he added.