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FMCSA study validates new Hours of Service rules

Written by Steve Gursten Posted February 20th, 2014

Data reveals that truckers who adhere to new HOS rules reported better attention, less fatigue, more focus, and this will ultimately reduce truck accidents

Fatigued trucker

In the last few years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has made some substantial changes in the  hours of service rules regulating the amount of time that truck drivers, bus drivers, and other commercial vehicle operators can drive.

The new rules have been hotly contested, and have even been the subject of court battles.

Well, the FMSCA recently released its long-awaited field study on the current hours-of-service rule.

The agency concluded that the two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. period requirements of the 34-hour restart provisions of the rule lead to safer operation of commercial vehicles.

The study was conducted by the Sleep Performance Research Center in Washington State University in Spokane, Washington., and part of the study was done in Pulsar Informatics in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The study featured 106 truck and bus drivers ranging from 24 to 69 years old.  The group was studied in two duty cycles and during the 34-hour restarts on each side.

According to the report, those truck drivers who did not include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods reported increased fatigue – especially as they approached the end of their duty period — than those following the provisions of the current HOS rule. These truck drivers also reported deviating from their lanes more often and increased difficulty in concentration and remaining alert, especially at night.

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro lauded the results of the study. Ferro weighed in:

“[t]his new study confirms the science we used to make the hours-of-service rule more effective at preventing crashes that involve sleepy or drowsy truck drivers. For the small percentage of truckers that average up to 70 hours of work a week, two nights of rest is better for their safety and the safety of everyone on the road.”

As an attorney who litigates cases involving fatigued drivers, I completely agree with Ferro’s last statement. Fatigue is often one of the  factors contributing to  serious truck wrecks. And any wreck caused by a fatigued driver is completely preventable.

But every single day on our roads, we continue to have fatigued drivers that leave people seriously injured or dead. When a truck driver dozes off or loses concentration behind the wheel, or has delays in his perception/reaction time because he is fatigued, it can and does often lead to tragedy.

But not everybody is sold on this report.

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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