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New Study Questions Hours of Service Rules and Their Impact on Trucking Collisions

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently changed hours of service rules to ensure that commercial truck drivers could drive no more than 70 hours per week in total. The new rules were in part based on a research study. In a new study, however, the American Transportation Research Institute has stated that the research used by the FMCSA contained errors that could call into question the new hours of service rules.

As a result of the statement and study released by the American Transportation Research Institute, two members of Congress have submitted a request to the Government Accountability Office to have the study used by the FMCSA checked. The FMCSA has defended its use of the study.


In the FMCSA study, 106 truck drivers were studied. Fatigue measurements were taken of the drivers during two driving cycles, which included two longer breaks known as restart breaks. The results of that study were used by the agency to back the new hours of service rules that began in July of last year. That same study was used to back up the need for the longer re-start break that went into effect at the same time. That break is now required of all commercial truck drivers before they can start a new work week.

The American Transportation Research Institute, however, claims that the study has technical problems, including problems involving data conflicts, measurement techniques, the interpretation of data, and basic study design flaws. For example, the study claims that the restart breaks measured involved one and two periods of nighttime but in fact the American Transportation Research Institute alleges that the study instead examined restarts that involve an unknown number and restarts that involved 34 hours away from duty. The group also raised questions about the fact that the study examines only 106 drivers and only over a period of about twelve days. In addition, the group notes that the sleepiness scale used did not show any levels of sleepiness when average driver scores were compared.

The FMCSA noted that their study was one of the “largest real-word studies” involving commercial truck drivers. They also stand by the study’s findings that drivers who get a 34-hour break with two nights of rest exhibit fewer signs of sleepiness, especially when driving at night, when compared with drivers who get shorter breaks.

So who is right? Do the new hours of service rules really work to prevent trucking collisions in Miami and other communities? Or is the data behind the new rule flawed and would different approaches help to combat the rate of traffic crashes and fatalities on Miami streets?

Most safety experts agree that fatigued driving in Miami and other cities is a contributor to truck collisions. However, most experts disagree about the best ways to combat tired driving. Not all fatigued driving, for example, is caused simply by lack of off-duty hours. In some cases, sleep apnea or other conditions can contribute to fatigue. On the other hand, getting enough hours off-duty could encourage truck drivers to see their doctors, get adequate rest, and take care of their health so that they stay safer on the roads. Is that enough to prevent truck collisions?

If you have been injured in a truck collision in South Florida, do not hesitate to contact Flaxman Law Group for a free case assessment.