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Study: Regardless of cost implications, drivers, carriers concerned about new restart rule

The ATRI survey revealed a majority of drivers expect the restart provisions to impact their quality of life and current operations in several ways. (The Trucker file photo)

The Trucker Staff

6/18/2013

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration can toss back and forth all day the argument whether the Regulatory Impact Analysis used to come up with the new 34-hour restart provision is flawed, but one thing’s for sure: Both professional truck drivers and motor carriers who responded to a recent American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) analysis about the new provision strongly believe it will impact productivity.

ATRI is the research arm of the ATA.

What’s more, the study indicates that thousands of drivers are going to have to change habits when the new provision starts being enforced July 1 (the rule has actually been in place since February 2012 but July 1 is the official “compliant” date).

Regardless of the bottom line (the FMCSA says net benefits of the new restart rule will be $133 million, ARTI says the new provision will cost the industry $189 million), results from a survey of more than 500 motor carriers and  more than 2,000 drivers show that a majority of respondents expect a moderate to major impact from each of the restart provisions.

These results are far different from the 15 percent of the driving population that FMCSA indicates will see a cost due to the restart provisions, ATRI said in the news release about the survey, which was headlined “New research identifies significant flaws in 34-hour restart benefit cost calculations.”

And, ATRI said, though both the provision allowing the restart to be used one time during a 168-hour period and the provision requiring two consecutive 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. period are anticipated by the industry to have a moderate/major impact on operations, the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. provision was cited as an issue by a larger percentage of both driver (74 percent) and carrier (84 percent) respondents.

Additionally, a majority of respondents in both the driver and motor carrier categories expected a loss of flexibility during peak periods, increased exposure to congestion, increased driver stress and decreased driver income as a result of the restart provisions.

ATRI said the majority of the drivers taking the survey use the 34-hour restart; within that group the restart is important to ensure the flexibility and available hours that truck drivers need in order to make a living.

The restart clearly helps a driver better match the supply of work hours with the demands of the customer, ATRI said the survey showed.

Among driver restart users the two restart provisions in the new HOS are of great concern, with nearly 75 percent of respondents predicting a significant (moderate or major) impact from the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. provision and 61 percent foreseeing a significant impact from the 1 restart per week provision.

ATRI said its findings differ greatly with those found in the FMCSA RIA, which predicts that only a small group (15 percent) of OTR drivers will feel a cost impact from the two restart provisions.

Finally, the ATRI survey revealed a majority of drivers expect the restart provisions to impact their quality of life and current operations in the following ways: decreased income/miles (64.9 percent), increased stress (62.6 percent), loss of flexibility during peak periods (85 percent), increased exposure to congestion (62 percent) and increased interruptions during holidays (58.2 percent).

The majority of carrier respondents indicated that their drivers use the 34-hour restart to maximize driver on-duty hours (68 percent) and for flexibility in operations (67 percent). Three other reasons were selected by 40 to 50 percent of carrier respondents: maximize drive time, maximize time at home and to avoid calculating a rolling week.

Carriers believe that the two restart provisions in the new HOS will have a significant impact on operations. Most respondents (84 percent) believe that the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. provision will have a moderate or major impact on their operations. A majority (63 percent) of respondents also indicated that the 1 restart per week provision would have a moderate or major impact on operations.

Very few motor carriers anticipate a need to purchase more equipment due to the changes, but the majority (70 percent) expects a loss in productivity, with more than half predicting they will need more drivers to haul the same amount of freight.

ATRI said it also obtained and analyzed logbook data to understand normal operating patterns within the trucking industry over 101-day period earlier this year.

Among the findings of that data:

• Out of a data set of 41,543 drivers, 97.3 percent had one valid restart during the 101-day period earlier this year.

• A restart user data set of 410,100 validated restarts showed that 82.9 percent of restarts that are less than 73 hours in length.

• From the baseline restart user population, 15,021 drivers (37.2 percent) had at least one restart that would not be compliant with the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. provision during the 101-day period. In total, drivers in this group had 38,423 restarts that would not meet the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. requirements (9.4 percent of all restarts).

• A population subset was compiled of drivers having at least one restart that did not comply with the one restart per week provision. Of the restart user population, 26,900 (66.5 percent) drivers had at least one restart that would not be compliant with this provision. Of the total population of restarts in the study period, 82,697 restarts (20.2 percent) would not be in compliance with the new one restart per week provision.

 The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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