As the Hours of Service (HOS) rule was published in the Federal Register on December 27, 2011, the trucking industry wasted no time in fighting back against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforcement.
With an effective date of February 27, 2012, and a complete provision compliance date of July 1, 2013, the primary concern of the industry focused on the requirements of the 34-hour restart provision in the HOS rule. The new rule called for drivers to include two rest periods between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. during their 34-hour restart, and limited use of the restart to once a week. In addition, drivers were required to take a minimum 30 minute break before they could begin driving again if they had been on-duty for eight hours.
The reasoning behind the change was the belief by the FMCSA and various safety advocacy groups that this would allow drivers additional time to rest as the goal was to reduce the number of truck crashes along the nation’s highways. Those within the industry including both organizations and drivers to a large degree, believed this would send more drivers out on the road during the periods of higher congestion since a large majority of drivers perform their driving duties during night hours.
Controversies over the trucking industry’s HOS rules have been debated for nearly twenty years, with the most recent 2013 HOS restart provision at the top of the list. As the industry continued to argue their case against the provision, former FMCSA Administrator, Anne Ferro testified November 2013 before the House Small Business Subcommittee, providing additional information about the 2013 Restart Rule and the 2012 FMCSA Field Study. Concerning the impact of the HOS final rule, Ms. Ferro stated:
“We estimate the new requirements will prevent 1,400 crashes, 560 injuries, and save 19 lives each year.”
On June 3, 2014 FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro faced criticism over the agency’s hours of service (HOS) rules before a Senate Surface Transportation Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill. Ferro defended changes made last year to the “34-hour restart” provision of the HOS regulations. Also at the June 3 hearing, subcommittee members Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) challenged Ferro on the economic and safety impacts of the rule.
The Senators questioned Administrator Ferro on whether FMCSA had done adequate research to support FMCSA claimed benefits for their rule changes. It was also brought up during this hearing that many truckers complained the changes required them to drive more during highly congested morning hours.
The Senate Appropriations Committee on June 5 approved legislation rolling back a portion of controversial changes made in 2013. An amendment was attached to the committee’s FY 2015 DOT appropriations bill that would effectively stay for one year changes that limit use of the “34-hour restart” to once in a seven day period and require that it include two off-duty periods between 1:00 am and 5:00 am, essentially reverting back to pre-July 2013.
The amendment would also require additional study of the safety efficacy of the new rules.
The amendment, proposed by Senator Susan Collins (ME), received strong bipartisan support. While the amendment has always been supported by the trucking industry and much of the business community, the provision to roll back HOS changes, known as the “Collins Amendment” for its sponsor Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), has strongly been opposed by the Obama Administration, safety advocacy groups, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and state truck enforcement officials.
DOT Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx has expressed “strong objection” saying the rollback of the restart will “put lives at risk.” After long and much heated debates, the rest period requirements were suspended via The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, enacted on December 16, 2014. All other hours-of-service rules, including the 30-minute rest break provision, remained unchanged with carriers and drivers maintaining compliance. This will remain until next fiscal year, Oct 1,2015.
FMCSA posted an Updated Notice: Hours of Service of Drivers.
The bill states: “Section 133 temporarily suspends enforcement of the hours-of-service regulation related to the restart provisions that went into effect on July 1, 2013 and directs the Secretary to conduct a study of the operational, safety, health and fatigue aspects of the restart provisions in effect before and after July 1, 2013. The Inspector General is directed to review the study plan and report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations whether it meets the requirements under this provision.”
Since the Collins Amendment requires FMCSA to conduct a study to compare the safety experience of fleets under both sets of rules, many believe the study results will support the trucking industry position. However, if the data generated by the study indicates otherwise, the 2013 HOS restart rule could be a returning.
With the recent release from the FMCSA Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCIMS) summarizing the crash record statistics beginning from 2010, the numbers include data up to August 31, 2014. By extrapolating the current information, it is possible to extend the application to cover the remaining four months of 2014. In doing so, one can reach a reasonable conclusion to what extent the change in HOS rules were successful in meeting the goals of reducing truck crash statistics in eight different categories:
- Number of vehicles involved in fatal and non-fatal crashes
- Number of vehicles in fatal crashes
- Number of vehicles in non-fatal crashes
- Number of fatal and non-fatal crashes
- Number of fatal crashes
- Number of non-fatal crashes
- Number of fatalities as a result of a crash
- Number of injuries as a result of a crash
As of August 31, 2014, the number of vehicles involved in fatal and non-fatal crashes (1) was 104,132. By extrapolating the figures to continue through the four months remaining, the final variable reached would come to 156,198. This number would exceed all previous years between 2010 and 2013:
- 2010: 136,817
- 2011: 138,567
- 2012: 138,326
- 2013: 149,367
As of August 31, 2014, the number of fatal and non-fatal crashes (4) was 97,501. Extending forward to the year’s end, the projected number would reach 146,251. Again, this number would exceed all previous years:
- 2010: 129,656
- 2011: 130,890
- 2012: 130,551
- 2013: 140,928
Other factors that would conclude a rise in yearly percentage would include the number of vehicles in non-fatal crashes (3): 152,298:
- 2010: 132,668
- 2011: 134,459
- 2012: 134,012
- 2013: 145,055
And the number of non-fatal crashes (6): 142,764:
- 2010: 125,821
- 2011: 127,115
- 2012: 126,643
- 2013: 137,068
Factors concluding a decrease in annual percentage would show to be the number of vehicles in fatal crashes (2), the number of fatal crashes (5), number of fatalities as a result of a crash (7):
The number of injuries as a result of a crash (8) for 2014 would appear to show a decrease in numbers from the previous year of 2013, but still higher than 2010 through 2012:
So what conclusion can be drawn by the projected estimated statistics? Was the FMCSA’s 2013 HOS restart rule successful in reducing fatal crashes, and if so, what is the explanation to the increase in the overall total number of crashes?
It will be interesting to see the actual final numbers of 2014 for the FMCSA Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCIMS) crash record statistics, and even more so, the Field Study the FMCSA will be conducting, comparing the safety involvement of fleets under both sets of HOS rules required by the Collins Amendment.
Old restart rules vx. new: FMCSA expects to begin study this month
THROWBACK Thursday What were drivers saying back in 2010 about the up and coming 2011 FMCSA changes?
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