Canadian Underwriter

U.S. trucking associations propose exemption from drivers’ hours restrictions for study

December 16, 2013   by Canadian Underwriter

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Two trucking associations announced Monday they are asking the United States government for an exemption from the driver off-duty rules in order to conduct a study on the relationship between the degree of sleeper berth flexibility and safety outcomes.

The American Trucking Associations and Minnesota Trucking Association recently submitted a request to the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for an exemption from the rules that require drivers to take 10 hours of consecutive rest off after a 14-hour shift.

“A growing body of scientific studies suggests that increasing flexibility in off-duty time for CMV drivers may result in improved safety outcomes by improving or sustaining driver alertness,” according to the joint submission, dated Dec. 3.

“Doing a pilot test using professional drivers in actual trucking operations could give the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration even more scientific data on which to base future improvements to the sleeper berth rules,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves stated in a press release Dec. 16.

“The proposed pilot program would seek to produce statistically reliable evidence of the relationship between the degree of sleeper berth flexibility (consolidated vs. split off-duty rest time) and safety outcomes,” ATA and MTA stated. “The findings pertaining to safety outcomes obtained through this study can provide guidance for future rulemaking aimed at improving safety and providing regulatory flexibility in the trucking industry.”

The associations noted that “humans have different sleep habits and regulatory limitations do not always address them adequately.”

They are requesting a two-year exemption from the clause in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 395 that mandates the 10-hour rest period after a 14-hour shift. That rule stipulates that a diver may only driver during a period of 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. It also prohibits drivers from driving after the end of their 14-hour duty without taking 10 consecutive hours off duty.

In Canada, the Commercial Vehicle Drivers Hours of Service Regulation law prohibits drivers from driving after they have accumulated 13 hours of driving time in a day and after accumulating 14 hours of on-duty time in a day, unless they take at least eight consecutive off-duty hours.

“The first phase will encompass the first six months and will consist of preparation for the pilot study,” the ATA and MTA noted in their submission to the U.S. government. “Several tasks will be accomplished during this time, including: identification of appropriate study protocols; formation of an industry/government oversight committee; formation of the intra-company oversight committees; integration of data collection and driver monitoring technologies; recruitment of participants; and participant and dispatcher training. The next 12-18 months will be implementation of the pilot program.”

The data could be collected, according to ATA and MTA, from fleet management systems and other sources.

The fleet management system data could be analyzed for signs of fatigue, such as shifting patterns, speed variability, curve events and lane departures.

Another possible data source would be a Psychomotor Vigilance Task (PVT), which measures reaction times to stimuli.

“Drivers could be required to perform the PVT when coming off of off-duty time and at the start of off-duty time,” the associations stated, adding drivers could also be required to complete the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale (KSS), which is a nine-point subjective sleepiness scale.

Other data sources could include driver log books and reports on crashes and incidents.

ATA and MTA are proposing to select volunteers who would be assigned, at random, to either the exemption group or the control group.

The control group would follow the regulations and have 10 consecutive hours off duty.

The other group would be exempt “and use a more flexible, split off-duty schedule.”