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FMCSA says ATRI restart analysis ‘attempt to cloud’ facts

“ATRI's report is an attempt to cloud the fact that the updated Hours of Service rule is working to ensure that truck drivers who work extreme schedules of up to 70 hours a week are getting the recuperation time they need before getting back behind the wheel. A well-rested commercial driver is a safer driver,” Marissa Padilla, a spokesperson for the FMCSA, told The Trucker.

By LYNDON FINNEY
The Trucker Staff

4/23/2014

WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration late Tuesday called an analysis by the American Transportation Research Institute that disputed findings of the FMCSA’s field study on the 34-hour restart rule “an attempt to cloud” the facts.

ATRI had said earlier Tuesday that its analysis took issue with several aspects of the agency’s field study.

ATRI officials said it identified a variety of technical issues related to research design flaws, validity of measurement techniques and interpretations and data conflicts within and across the study.  

“ATRI's report is an attempt to cloud the fact that the updated Hours of Service rule is working to ensure that truck drivers who work extreme schedules of up to 70 hours a week are getting the recuperation time they need before getting back behind the wheel. A well-rested commercial driver is a safer driver,” Marissa Padilla, a spokesperson for the FMCSA, told The Trucker.

 She said the third-party study released earlier this year was one of the largest real-world studies ever conducted with commercial drivers.

“The research found that drivers who began their work week following a 34-hour restart break with just one nighttime period of rest, as compared to two exhibited more lapses of attention, especially at night; reported greater sleepiness, especially toward the end of their duty periods; and showed increased lane deviation (i.e., more variability in lateral lane position) in the morning, afternoon and at night,” she said.

The FMCSA study was undertaken at the direction of Congress as part of MAP-21 and was designed to study the efficacy of the restart provisions which went into effect July 1, 2013, and collected fatigue measurements from 106 truck drivers during two duty cycles that included two restart breaks.

Norita Taylor, a spokesperson for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said of the report that “Their findings appear to agree with the skepticism we’ve expressed previously about the field study. The study is not applicable or relevant to the majority of the trucking population since it did not represent those actually affected by the regulations.”

ATRI’s Technical Memorandum documents the following issues with FMCSA’s report:

• The field study report purports to have measured differences between restarts with one and two nighttime periods (1 a.m. to 5 .a.m.) but instead measured differences in restarts that range from 34 hours to an unknown/non-limited number of hours off-duty.

• MAP-21 required that the field study be “representative of the drivers and motor carriers regulated by the Hours of Service regulations” but the study includes, on average, less than 12 days’ worth of data for each of only 106 drivers.

• The FMCSA field study does not present research to support the limitation of the use of the 34-hour restart to once per week (168 hours).

• Use of the 3-minute Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT) showed lapses of attention by drivers in both duty cycle groups, but offered no link between the average number of lapses, fatigue and the safe operation of commercial vehicles.

• The two duty cycle groups had lane deviation measurements that differed by 1/10th of a centimeter and the study authors provided no evidence that these findings are relevant or have a nexus to driver fatigue in either of the two groups.

• The difference in sleep obtained by the two duty cycle groups on their restart breaks differed by only six minutes per 24-hour period.

• Average driver scores on the subjective sleepiness scale did not indicate any level of sleepiness.

• The study confirms that drivers in the “two or more nighttime” group are more likely to drive during the day; a time when FMCSA’s own data shows a higher crash risk.

“FMCSA has heard loud and clear from carriers and drivers that the new rules are not advancing safety and are creating additional stress and fatigue on the part of truck drivers,” commented Steve Rush, president of Carbon Express Inc. in Wharton, N.J.  “ATRI’s analysis raises enough questions about FMCSA’s own study that should compel a comprehensive review of the entire rule.”

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

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