DOT Study Questions Effectiveness of FMCSA’s 34-Hour Restart Rule  

This week, a number of media outlets reported on a new letter issued by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General. In it, the department concluded that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 34-hour restart rule or “hours of service” (HOS) regulations aren’t having the expected impact on highway safety.

FMCSA revised HOS to limit the use of the 34-hour restart provision to once every 168 hours and to require that anyone using the provision have as part of the restart two periods that include 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. It also included a provision that allows truckers to drive if they had a break of at least 30 minutes (at a time of their choosing, sometime within the previous eight hours), and limited use of the restart provision to once every 168 hours.

The HOS final rule was published in the Federal Register on December 27, 2011. The effective date was February 27, 2012, and the compliance date of remaining provisions was July 1, 2013. In December 2014, the regulations were suspended until the study could be completed.

“Following more than two years of lingering uncertainty, the rules governing truckers’ use of a 34-hour restart are settled, following the issuance of a long-awaited report from the Department of Transportation,” writes CCJ Digital’s James Jaillet, noting that while the study has not yet been made public, a letter issued by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) confirms the report’s conclusions.

The letter reveals the DOT study concludes that truckers operating under 2013 hours of service rules showed no greater safety levels than those operating under less restrictive hours regulations, according to CCJ Digital. “The study found that truckers abiding by the July 1, 2013, regulations — those requiring the early morning periods to be included in the restart,” Jaillet writes, “operated no more safely than truckers not abiding by the rules, according to the OIG letter.”

In No ‘Net Benefit’ Found in Controversial 34-Hour Restart Provisions, Heavy Duty Trucking’s Deborah Lockridge said that on March 6 the publication was told by the DOT that the department was “currently in the final stages of review before transmitting the report to Congress.”

In her article, Lockridge said 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.

In a press release, the American Trucking Association’s president and CEO Chris Spear said the industry was pleased by the release of the DOT report. “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, in the press release.

“Congress repeatedly told the FMCSA that rules of this nature must show a benefit to safety and this report clearly shows there was no benefit,” Spear concluded. “This marks the end of a long struggle, but hopefully the beginning of a new era of inclusive and data-based regulation.”

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If you have any questions about the FCSMA’s rules or upcoming regulations for truck drivers and other types of carriers, please contact your Odyssey Logistics representative today.