For a number of years concerns over the hours of service (HOS) rules under NHTSA’s Compliance, Safety, & Accountability program has been a chief concern in the commercial trucking industry and potential truck accidents. The American Transport research Institute conducts a yearly survey of trucking industry professionals to better understand the concerns and challenges facing the industry. Since 2013 and for the third year in a row, concerns over HOS regulations has topped the organization’s list of concerns.
In the past concern over the rule was related to whether the potential safety gains of the 34-hour restart rule were worth the potential decreases in productivity. However, the 34-hour restart rule requirement was suspended with the passage of The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 in December of 2014. The rule is not permitted to be reinstated until the CMV Driver Restart Study is completed and the final report has been submitted to Congress.
Thus, this year the concern over HOS is regarding “uncertainty surrounding the future of the regulations” and “concern over the uncertain future of the current suspension of the [HOS] rules.” Safety advocates have also commented on the issue with most in favor of reinstating the 34-hour rest rule to decrease the incidence of fatigued commercial truck drivers. In the coming months, the debate over the 34-hour restart rule is likely to be addressed and settled. Whether the rule is reinstated to protect motorists and commercial drivers will come down to the findings of the report and the political will of Congress.
Understanding the Suspension of the Commercial Trucking 34-Hour Restart Rule
The 34-hour rest rule is a source of major disagreement between highway and vehicle safety experts and stakeholders in the trucking industry. Safety advocates state that the 34-hour rest rule in combination with other rest rules significantly reduce the incidence of fatigued commercial drivers who are less able to focus and react appropriately. Trucking industry stakeholders argue that the rule causes significant disruptions in the industry while being of questionable safety value. They further object to the manner of data collection under the law stating that the method of collection fails to present an accurate picture of the company’s safety record.
The commercial driver rest rules are Part 395 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The 34-hour restart rule is actually one of several rules guiding commercial drivers as to when it is appropriate for them to operate their vehicle. These rules include:
- 14-hour driving window
- 11-hour driving limit
- 30-minute rest break
- 60/70-Hour Duty Limit
The 34-hour restart rule is relevant when a driver wishes to restart his or her 60/70 hour duty limit. The rule states that when a driver does not operate a commercial motor vehicle for a 34-hour period his or her “weekly” 60 or 70-hour limit is reset back to zero. The driver may perform on-duty tasks such as loading or unloading a vehicle, administrative tasks, and other work provided that he or she does not drive a commercial motor vehicle.
Will the 34-Hour Commercial Restart Rule Return?
At this point, whether the rule makes a return is largely dependent upon the results of the congressionally-mandated Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Driver Restart Study. The study is designed to conduct “a naturalistic study of the operational, safety, health, and fatigue impacts of the restart provisions in Sections 395.3(c) and 395.3(d) of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, on commercial motor vehicle drivers.” The study will compare the effects different amounts of recovery time has on a commercial driver. An array of assessment technologies will be used to gather accurate and reliable data including onboard cameras to watch the driver for signs of fatigue, electronic logging devices to track time on duty, Psychomotor Vigilance Tests (PVTs) to test alertness, Actigraph watches to determine amount of sleep, and questionnaires regarding behavior and diet.
The study was initially approved in May 2015. Data collection efforts began in March 2015 and continued over the summer and until September 2015. The final report is expected to be submitted to the Office of Inspector General in December 2015. FMCSA states that data analysis is currently in progress. Whether the 34-hour restart rule is reestablished or other potential measures to reduce the instances of fatigued commercial driving is largely dependent on the findings of this study.
Injured by a Fatigued Truck Driver in Pennsylvania?
If you have suffered a severe injury or if a loved one has been killed in an auto accident due to a fatigued commercial driver, the experienced personal injury lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm can fight for you. For decades we have fought to hold negligent parties financially accountable for the severe consequences their actions can inflict. To schedule a free and private legal consultation contact our Philadelphia truck accident attorneys at (215) 246-9000.