WASHINGTON — Adding flexibility to truck driver hours-of-service regulations in 2020 may have reduced road safety, based on data compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

FMCSA compared HOS inspection and large-truck crash data from two years before the revisions went into effect on Sept. 29, 2020, and a year after the effective date.

FMCSA’s analysis, sent to Congress on Friday, concluded that the percentage of driver inspections that found at least one HOS violation or at least one out-of-service HOS violation  — which requires the driver be removed from service until the violation is corrected — was significantly higher during the post-change period. (See table.)

Large-truck crash rates pre- and post-revision also increased but not enough to be statistically significant. However, “it is important to note that initial trends may have been confounded by the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on industry operations and FMCSA’s emergency declaration that provided HOS regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance in support of COVID-19 relief efforts,” FMCSA stated.

Comparison of rates pre- and post-2020 revision change. (Source: FMCSA)

In addition, the agency noted that the implementation of the ELD mandate between December 2017 and December 2019 could also have safety implications. (FMCSA sent Congress a separate ELD report in April.) “Finally, there are numerous confounding factors that influence crash rates, so this comparison does not specifically identify the effect of the HOS rule changes,” FMCSA stated.

FMCSA’s 2020 final rule made revisions to four HOS provisions:

It expanded the short-haul exception from 100 air-miles to 150 air-miles for CDL holders and allows a 14-hour shift for drivers utilizing the exception.

It expanded the driving window during adverse driving conditions by two hours.

It requires a break of at least 30 consecutive minutes of nondriving time after eight cumulative hours of driving but allows nondriving, on-duty time to count toward the break.

It modified the sleeper berth exception to allow a driver to meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement by spending at least seven hours in the berth plus at least two hours inside or outside the berth, provided the two periods total at least 10 hours.

FMCSA stated at the time that the changes “will improve efficiency without compromising safety by providing flexibility for drivers … without changing the maximum allowable driving time.”

Much of the trucking industry, including small-business owner-operators, supported the change and the operational flexibility expected to come with it.

In contrast, trucking safety advocates fought the changes, arguing that loosening the rules would lead to more crashes and diminished safety.

“All this report does is confirm what we already knew: Driver fatigue continues to be a menace that threatens everyone on the roads,” said Zach Cahalan, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition, when asked to comment on FMCSA’s analysis.

“FMCSA weakened HOS requirements in direct response to industry outcry and safety suffered. Large-truck fatalities have increased by 71% since 2009; the time for half-measures and partial solutions has long passed. FMCSA has an opportunity to meaningfully advance truck safety outcomes with large-truck [Automatic Emergency Braking] and speed-limiter rulemakings and we urge them to meet the moment.”

FMCSA did not address the safety implications that could be deduced from its report, presumably due to the limited and generalized data it had for making the pre- and post-rule revision analysis.

Instead, it suggested that an alternative way to understand the effect of the HOS changes would be to analyze safety outcomes specifically of those who took advantage of the new provisions. The problem, though, is that “there is very limited data to support an in-depth analysis of the safety outcomes of carriers that took advantage of the new HOS provisions in comparison to those that did not,” FMCSA contended.

“The pre- and post-rule change macro trend analysis is limited in its reach given the scale of the HOS rule changes and other confounding factors. Subsequent annual analysis will include more data points and additional data breakouts. FMCSA will work on follow-on analyses drilling down into specific HOS violations or violation groups to attempt to correlate those with crash trends and will present any results in future annual reports.”

Related articles:

Lawmaker vows to block speed limiters on trucks

NHTSA truck brake rule under review at OMB

Truck safety lobby pressures DOT on crash prevention 

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

The post Report finds higher hours-of-service violation rates since 2020 revisions appeared first on FreightWaves.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply