FMCSA’s truck driver fatigue study under scrutiny

The FMCSA's study that seems to validate its decision to modify the hours of service regulations to reduce truck driver fatigue has been met with criticism.

Truck driver fatigue is a major safety issue among long-haul truckers in Illinois and across the country. Responding to the threat that half-awake truck drivers pose to motorists, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) changed the hours of service (HOS) regulations about one year ago. These regulations set the minimum number of hours that truck drivers must rest between each workweek. The agency hoped that the changes would significant reduce the number of fatigue-related truck accidents.

The main change to the HOS regulations was a decrease in the amount that a truck driver may drive in a week from 82 hours to 70 hours. In addition, the new changes required truckers to rest for 34 hours over two nights before they may begin a new workweek. Under the old rules, truckers were granted a 34-hour rest period, but it did not have to span two nighttime periods.

As a requirement of the new regulations, Congress required the FMCSA to conduct a study to see if the new HOS regulations reduced truck accidents. As a result, the FMCSA commissioned an independent study that tracked 106 truck drivers in two groups. One group had its members follow the new HOS regulations and the other followed the former rules.

The results of the study seemed to confirm the hypothesis of the FMCSA that a shorter workweek and modified rest period would lead to drivers that are more alert. The study found that the group that followed the new HOS rules was better able to concentrate and reported feeling less fatigue than the other group.

Criticism of study

It was not long after the study was released that its conclusions came under fire by pro-trucking industry groups such as the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). The ATRI's main complaint about the study was that it was too limited in scope. Since only 106 drivers were tested over a 12-day period, the ATRI argued that the result could not be representative of the approximately 1.6 million long-haul truck drivers on the roads.

Aside from the scope of the survey, the ATRI pointed out that neither group in the study reported that they were fatigued in a significant way. As a result, the ATRI concluded that the HOS regulation changes were not needed to reduce driver fatigue.

Since the main criticism of the study comes from the ATRI and other industry groups that represent trucking companies, it is debatable whether their motives come from a desire to reduce fatigue or maximize profits. Since the new HOS rules have been in effect for less than a year, only time will tell if they are effective at reducing driver fatigue.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a truck accident, driver fatigue or other negligence may be to blame. An attorney can look into the cause of the accident and work to recover compensation for your medical bills and other expenses that you may be entitled to by law.

Keywords: truck accidents, truck driver fatigue