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ATA calls hours-of-service study faulty

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ARLINGTON, Va. (Feb. 3, 2014) — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) study on the efficacy of its revised hours-of-service rule for truck drivers fails to fully address the rule's effect on highway safety, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

The FMCSA study specifically addresses the restart provisions of the new hours-of-service rules that went into effect July 1, 2013. The 34-hour restart provisions, which mandate for truckers two nighttime rest periods between 1 and 5 a.m. during the 34-hour time slot, are designed to provide sufficient time for drivers to recuperate from cumulative fatigue if they work beyond the weekly maximum on-duty limits, the agency said.

On Jan. 30, the FMCSA released the results of a study performed for the agency by the Washington State University Sleep and Performance Research Center and Philadelphia-based Pulsar Informatics Inc.

Researchers found that drivers who had only one break during the 34-hour period, rather than two, reported greater sleepiness, suffered more lapses of attention and were more likely to deviate from lanes of traffic at all hours of the day, the FMCSA said.

"This 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," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro.

However, the ATA said the researchers failed to consider some of the most important issues surrounding the new restart provisions.

For example, the study did not address the real-world safety implications of putting more trucks on the road during daylight hours, when traffic is heavier, the ATA said.

Also, the association said the study does not evaluate the health benefits of the new restart provisions. Those supposed benefits were used to justify the rule change.

"While the study includes some findings favorable to certain portions of the new restart rule, the incomplete nature of the analysis and the lack of justification for the once-weekly use restriction is consistent with the flawed analyses that led the agency to make these changes in the first place," said Dave Osiecki, ATA national vice president and chief of national advocacy.

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