The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently confirmed that two provisions of the hours-of-service rule that have been suspended since December 2014 will remain suspended.
The two provisions were a part of the restrictions on maximum driving time for drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). Under the rule, located at 49 CFR 395.3, CMV drivers are allowed to drive a maximum of 60 hours in a 7-day period or 70 hours in an 8-day period. Under what’s known as the 34-hour restart provision, drivers can begin a new 7- or 8-day period for the purpose of these driving time calculations by taking 34 consecutive hours off duty.
The provisions in question placed restrictions on the use of the 34-hour restart rule. Under the restrictions, the 34-hour off-duty period was required to include two nighttime periods from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., and drivers were allowed to use the restart provision only once within a period of 168 consecutive hours (i.e., once per week).
In December 2014, the FMCSA suspended enforcement of these provisions pending the results of a Congress-ordered study on their necessity and impact on safety. Now that the study has been completed, the FMCSA has announced that the provisions will remain suspended. CMV drivers can use the 34-hour restart provision without additional restrictions on frequency or time of day.
To investigate the safety implications of the provisions, the FMCSA conducted a 5-month study of more than 200 CMV drivers. Participating drivers worked their normal schedules and performed their normal duties, but half followed the restart restrictions, while the other half followed the 34-hour restart rule without additional restrictions. The FMCSA compared the work schedules of the two groups and looked for differences in the rate of crashes, near-crashes, fatigue, and other safety-related outcomes.
The results indicated that requiring drivers to include the two 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. periods and limiting the restart provision to once per week did not lead to improvements in safety. Drivers who followed the 34-hour restart rule without additional restrictions did not experience any significant differences in the number of safety-critical events, work hours per day, levels of fatigue, or stress levels.
The study did, however, affirm the importance of the 34-hour off-duty periods. According to the FMCSA, drivers slept over 2 hours more per day during the restart periods as compared to days they were on duty.
Read the full study here.