U.S. Rep. Hanna: Limited study of restart provision 'worthless'

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 1/30/2014

Two overnight rest periods are better than one is the conclusion of a study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on the effects of the new 34-hour restart provision. But the study itself has given OOIDA reason for concern and has already drawn fire from one lawmaker.

According to FMCSA, the scientists measured sleep, reaction time, sleepiness and driving performance in the study. They found that drivers who began their work week with just one nighttime period of rest, as compared to the two nights in the updated 34-hour restart break:

  • Exhibited more lapses of attention, especially at night; 
  • Reported greater sleepiness, especially toward the end of their duty periods; and
  • Showed increased lane deviation in the morning, afternoon and at night.

The “real world study” researched the sleep, driving and alertness patterns of 106 drivers – only 36 of whom were over-the-road drivers, the segment most likely to utilize the voluntary 34-hour restart, according to OOIDA.

Beyond that the sampling of drivers was not representative of the trucking industry. Only 45 percent of those surveyed were intermodal drivers, 30 percent were on dedicated routes, and only 3 percent operated in van truckload operations, OOIDA pointed out.

It’s shortcomings like those that has one lawmaker more than a little hot under the collar.

Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., has pressed FMCSA to finish the study and make the results public. Hanna introduced legislation that would rescind the changes to the voluntary 34-hour restart and mandate a review of FMCSA’s study.

But Hanna didn’t wait on a formal review before issuing a statement the same day the study was released.

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

“First, FMCSA is telling millions of truckers when they are tired, but the study only examined 100 truckers from three companies. In addition, the study’s narrow scope 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.”

Leadership at the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association was also disappointed in the thoroughness of the study.

“Unfortunately this was a study that was sort of thrown together,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said. “But realistically we don’t think it’s representative of the industry that was supposed to be the beneficiary (or the victim depending on your point of view) of the new regulations.

“This was a really, really small sample size, only 106 drivers. And the majority of those drivers didn’t even run over the road. Obviously that is where the 34-hour restart provision was supposed to have an impact,” he said.

“I’m skeptical that you can extrapolate any conclusion from this to the broader population of truck drivers.”

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