Trucks at Work
Hours of safety

Hours of safety

What these numbers are telling us is that we’re seeing the safety performance intended by the current hours of service rules.” –Rebecca Brewster, president, American Transportation Research Institute

The numbers are pretty startling, to say the very least. According to a just-completed study conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) that analyzed safety data collected in 2009 and in 2004, truck-involved collisions are down dramatically – proof, perhaps, that the current hours of service (HOS) regulations may indeed be helping to improve highway safety.

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Now, point of full disclosure here: ATRI is a not-for-profit freight transportation research group that’s funded in part by the American Trucking Associations (ATA). That being said, though, the group used actual crash numbers collected by government sources (as well as detailed survey data gleaned from carriers) as part of its research.

And boy did they find some positive trend lines in the making! From 2004 - 2009, ATRIO found that the total truck-involved collision rate decreased 11.7%, while the more important “preventable collision” rate decreased a whopping 30.6%.

“While you can’t make a direct causal relationship between HOS rules and crash data, you can make a connection here,” Rebecca Brewster, ATRI’s president, told me by phone. “Look at the preventable collisions in particular: these are events where driver reaction makes the difference. And they only react faster is they are rested, if they are getting enough sleep, if they are not fatigued.”

ATRI also uncovered other evidence to further the link between current HOS rules and reduction in driver fatigue.

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Using 2009 data, the group found that the majority (87%) of commercial motor vehicle crashes occurred within the first eight hours of driving, with just 12% occurring between the 9th and 11th hour of driving. A similar trend was found in an analysis of fatal truck collisions using the Trucks Involved in Fatal Accidents (TIFA) database, with a review of 2007 TIFA data showing that 80% of fatal truck collisions occurred within the first eight hours of driving.

“These are important numbers to note, because again it shows that drivers are not fatigued; that they are getting the rest they need,” Brewster explained. “If they were NOT getting rested, they’d be more fatigued at the end of their driving day and we’d expect to see higher crash rates.”

In fact, according to the data gathered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there’s been just one truck crash in the 11th hour of drive time in the last three years of available safety data – none in 2004, one in 2005, and none in 2006.

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Here are some other key findings from ATRI’s analysis:

• Total driver injuries decreased 1.6% for all fleets and 23% for TL fleets. Both findings were statistically significant.

• Nearly 70% of drivers used part of the 9-10 hour at least once during the month. Approximately 60 percent of drivers used part of the 10-11 hour and slightly less (52%) used the entire 10-11 hour. The majority of drivers (79%) used the 34-hour restart at least once during a month.

• In general, drivers used the 34-hour restart an average of three or fewer times per month. Among TL drivers, 56% used the 34-hour restart three or fewer times per month; LTL, 61%; and Specialized, 66%.

At the end of the day, though, Brewster emphasizes that it’s more important to look at the long term trend lines these numbers establish.

“It shows that we’re continuing to see improvement, that we’re continuing to see a positive safety trend long after the [current] HOS rules were put in place,” she stressed. “It shows the rules are working.”

That point, of course, is being debated heavily right now as the FMCSA is re-examining current HOS regulations – leading to potentially more changes in the future. So we’ll just have to see how all of this plays out.

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Since the weekend is almost upon us, I’d like to leave you with a little humor, if I may.

Now, being a long-time ‘Star Wars’ geek (“The Force will be with you, always …”) I just have to share two of the funniest commercials now being bandied about TV and the Internet featuring none-other than the best super-villain in the galaxy, Darth Vader (which is actually Dutch for ‘Dark Father.’)

First up … Darth Vader Plays Golf … and let me tell, many a time I wished I could have used Jedi powers on the golf course in this fashion …

Next up … Darth Vader’s Voice-Over Work for TomTom … You’ve got to see it to believe it …

Have a safe weekend!