Trucker 1154 Restart 5 Am

No 'net benefit' to overnight restart, FMCSA concedes

March 7, 2017
OOIDA says rule rollback is common sense, 'trucker sense'

The Congressionally mandated review of 2013 changes to truck driver hours of service requirements has turned up no evidence that the restart provisions are, overall, beneficial. The tip comes from none other than the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Trucking interests welcomed the study's conclusion, while highway safety groups called it "junk science."

In a letter to new Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and key committee members in Congress, OIG signs off on the yet-to-be-released final report by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, saying the agency followed the review requirements imposed when lawmakers suspended provisions that included requiring consecutive nighttime off-duty periods (1 a.m. to 5 a.m.) to reset a driver’s weekly work limits. Those limits were not to be enforced pending a study that demonstrated the plan was effective in reducing fatigue-related accidents. Many in the trucking industry had lobbied successfully that the 2013 requirement disrupted the work schedules—and rest routines—of nightshift truckers and put more trucks on the highway during morning rush-hour periods.

“We concur with the Department’s conclusion that the study did not explicitly identify a net benefit from the use of the two suspended provisions of the restart rule on driver operations, safety, fatigue, and health,” the OIG letter states.

Language in the current DOT budget extension calls for the suspension to be made permanent with such a determination.

A DOT spokesman told Fleet Owner the agency is "currently in the final stages of review" before sending the full report, delivered to OIG on Jan. 5, to Congress.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association agreed with the finding that there is no safety benefit in the currently suspended provisions. 

“It’s not only common sense, it’s trucker sense,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “We have always championed the need for flexibility in the hours-of-service regulations so that drivers can drive when rested and avoid times of heavy congestion or bad weather conditions.”

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear likewise said the trucking industry was pleased with the validation of its position that the restart did not perform as advertised.

“We knew from the beginning that these Obama administration restrictions provided no benefit to safety,” Spear said, “and in light of the DOT’s findings—corroborated by the DOT Inspector General—it is good for our industry and for the motoring public that they will be done away with permanently.”

ATA has fought against these restrictions—which limited drivers’ flexibility in the use of the restart—since they were first proposed in 2013, the association notes.

“Congress repeatedly told the FMCSA that rules of this nature must show a benefit to safety and this report clearly shows there was no benefit,” Spear said. “This marks the end of a long struggle, but hopefully the beginning of a new era of inclusive and data-based regulation.”

Highway safety groups, however, blasted the study results, with the Truck Safety Coalition saying OIG simply “rubber stamped” a study that was “junk science” and “set up for failure.”

“This study does nothing to shed light on the serious problem of truck driver fatigue,” said Jackie Gillan, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.  “But, it does shed light on the power of special trucking interests to run to their friends in Congress and repeal important health and safety rules.  Sadly, the U.S. DOT IG has become yet another political pawn in this tortured process.”

About the Author

Kevin Jones | Editor

Kevin has served as editor-in-chief of Trailer/Body Builders magazine since 2017—just the third editor in the magazine’s 60 years. He is also editorial director for Endeavor Business Media’s Commercial Vehicle group, which includes FleetOwner, Bulk Transporter, Refrigerated Transporter, American Trucker, and Fleet Maintenance magazines and websites.

Working from Little Rock, Kevin has covered trucking and manufacturing for 15 years. His writing and commentary about the trucking industry and, previously, business and government, has been recognized with numerous state, regional, and national journalism awards.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of FleetOwner, create an account today!

Sponsored Recommendations

Leveraging telematics to get the most from insurance

Fleet owners are quickly adopting telematics as part of their risk mitigation strategy. Here’s why.

Reliable EV Charging Solution for Last-Mile Delivery Fleets

Selecting the right EV charging infrastructure and the right partner to best solve your needs are critical. Learn which solution PepsiCo is choosing to power their fleet and help...

Overcoming Common Roadblocks Associated with Fleet Electrification at Scale

Fleets in the United States, are increasingly transitioning from internal combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles. While this shift presents challenges, there are strategies...

Report: The 2024 State of Heavy-Duty Repair

From capitalizing on the latest revenue trends to implementing strategic financial planning—this report serves as a roadmap for navigating the challenges and opportunities of ...