Study: Changes to restart provision provided no net benefit

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 3/6/2017

Truckers were right all along. The tweaks to the voluntary 34-hour restart that added two mandatory overnight periods and limited its use to once every seven days did not benefit driver safety, fatigue or health.

That is the conclusion to a yet-to-be-released congressionally mandated study on the 34-hour restart. The study is complete and signed off on by the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.

The study was mandated by an amendment to the 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations legislation that was signed into law in December 2014.

The amendment, introduced by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, suspended the requirements that a voluntary 34-hour restart include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. overnights during the restart and would allow more than one restart in a seven-day period.

The changes to the voluntary restart provision were to remain suspended until FMCSA completed a study – with input from the Office of Inspector General – to determine whether the changes were justified.

The amendment also contained a lengthy detailing of how the study will be conducted, peer reviewed and approved by the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.

The March 2 notice from the Inspector General is the first public disclosure of the study’s findings. It tracks with what truckers have been saying since FMCSA introduced the changes in 2013.

“Congress raised concerns about the rule’s unintended consequences, such as increased congestion during certain traffic hours and suspended FMCSA’s enforcement of the two provisions in the 2015 Appropriations Act. The act also required DOT to conduct a study of the operational, safety, health, and fatigue impacts of these rules and mandated that we review the study,” the OIG notice states.
“We 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.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which wholeheartedly supported the Collins amendment and the study, hopes FMCSA has learned something from this exercise.

“This is a good example of the agency believing they had a grand idea and putting their idea into policy without considering its impact on truck drivers or any other drivers. Had they asked and listened to what they were told, this confusion could have been avoided,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

“Imagine all the lost opportunities to gain insight that were possible through the listening sessions in truck shows.”

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