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DOT Study Concludes ‘No Net Benefit’ Found in 34-Hour Restart Provisions

The US DOT says its study regarding the 34-hour restart of the hours of service rule failed to “explicitly identify a net benefit” from two suspended provisions.

The acknowledgement effectively solidifies the current HoS rule.

As reported by Heavy Duty Trucking, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued hours-of-service regulations in 2013 that featured two controversial restart provisions. They required that the 34-hour restart include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods, even if the 34 hours had already been reached. It also limited use of the restart provision to once every 168 hours.

The trucking industry raised concerns about the rule’s unintended consequences, such as increased congestion during daytime traffic hours, reports HDT.

In late 2014, as part of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, Congress suspended those two provisions and directed FMCSA to conduct a study of the operational, safety, health, and fatigue impacts of these rules.

The law also mandated that the DOT’s Office of Inspector General review the study. Last week, in a letter to Congress, the OIG wrote that it “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.”

Drivers from a variety of fleet sizes and operations provided a substantial amount of data during the study period, according to FMCSA. More than 220 drivers contributed data as they drove their normal routes. The data included over 3,000 driver duty cycles captured by electronic logging devices, over 75,000 driver alertness tests, and more than 22,000 days of driver sleep data.

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear said the trucking industry was pleased by the news.

“The release of this report closes what has been a long, and unnecessary, chapter in our industry’s drive to improve highway safety,” Spear said. “We knew from the beginning that these Obama administration restrictions provided no benefit to safety, and in light of the DOT’s findings – corroborated by the DOT Inspector General – it is good for our industry and for the motoring public that they will be done away with permanently as specified by language ATA lead the charge on including in the most recently passed Continuing Resolution.”

ATA has fought against these restrictions – which limited drivers’ flexibility in the use of the restart – since they were first proposed in 2013.

“Congress repeatedly told the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that rules of this nature must show a benefit to safety and this report clearly shows there was no benefit,” Spear said. “This marks the end of a long struggle, but hopefully the beginning of a new era of inclusive and data-based regulation.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association also was quick to respond to the news. “It’s not only common sense, it’s trucker sense,” said OOIDA executive vice president, Todd Spencer, in a statement. “We have always championed the need for flexibility in the hours-of-service regulations so that drivers can drive when rested and avoid times of heavy congestion or bad weather conditions.”

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