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Discovering the real-world effects of the changes to Hours of Service rules
When the revised Hours of Service rules for trucking were announced in 2011, many drivers were concerned. The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), a nonprofit organization that studies safety and productivity in the trucking industry, immediately surveyed drivers about potential impact before the rules went into effect, and did a follow-up survey to see the actual impact once all provisions of the new rules were in place. Road King talked to ATRI President and COO Rebecca Brewster about the findings.
Q. What does ATRI do and how does it do it?
A. We collect data and do research that focuses on the trucking industry’s safety and productivity. We develop our research ideas based on input and prioritization from our research advisory committee, which is made up of representatives from motor carriers, driver groups, academia government, law enforcement and industry suppliers. The No. 1 priority chosen in 2012 was the change in Hours of Service rules and the impact of the 34-hour restart change, which has to include 28 consecutive hours from 1 a.m. on the first day until 5 a.m. on the following day.
Q. The new rules were intended to address driver fatigue. What did ATRI find?
A. We did a survey of commercial drivers, motor carriers and an analysis of a significant set of logbooks. We asked drivers what has been their level of fatigue since the rules went into effect, and 66.7 percent say they are experiencing increased fatigue as a result of the rule. In comments, a number of drivers explained that the requirement for the 30-minute rest break has extended their working day because they are not only spending 30 minutes on a required rest break every eight hours, but they spend a significant amount of time in non-revenue-generating miles looking for available parking.
Q. What are some of the other impacts of the new rule on drivers?
A. Drivers have adapted and adjusted to the rules by adjusting their start time and their overall driving schedule. They are turning down loads because of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. requirement, and the one restart a week. They are not getting as many loads in and that is having an impact on their income and on their quality of life.
Fifty-three percent of drivers surveyed said they are spending more time in traffic. That is a stress-inducing condition for any of us, but particularly for a driver whose clock is rolling on Hours of Service, who is burning fuel and whose productivity is negatively impacted by traffic congestion.
Q. Once ATRI does this type of study, what are the next steps?
A. ATRI does not advocate or lobby. We are strictly a research and education organization. Our role is to collect the data and do the analysis and put it into the market for those interested in the topic.
Q. Are there plans to continue to study HOS?
A. Absolutely. We are going to continue and do a next step of data collection as more drivers incorporate the new rules into their operations. Are the impacts of the HOS rules changing? Are there new impacts? Unintended impacts? Or have the impacts lessened as time goes by?
Q. Advocates for the rules see them as a way to improve highway safety.
A. Whatever impact these rules will have on safety on the highway will bear itself out over time. But the potential for wage impacts has captured the attention of those who are beginning to understand that it is not just safety issue. There are very real economic impacts that have to be acknowledged and weighed alongside the safety impacts.
Q. How can a driver get involved with ATRI?
A. When we ask for input we hope for participation. We had an overwhelming response for both of the HOS studies, and I expect we will again for the third survey. Anyone can order a copy of our reports. We provide them free of charge. If a driver wants a full report they can simply request it through our website and we will email it to them free of charge.
Drivers can also send us research suggestions through our website, or send us an email about a topic of concern. Those ideas get fed into our research advisory committee prioritization process and in many cases get elevated to areas for study.