The Unintended Side Effects of HOS Restart Provisions
Late in 2014, Congress passed an appropriations bill that, much to the relief of truckers and trucking companies everywhere, eliminated funding for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 34-hour restart provision. By suspending this provision for the foreseeable future, regulations have reverted to their pre-July 1, 2013 status.
Specifically, these provisions have been suspended:
- That drivers’ 34-hour restarts include two periods between the hours of 1am and 5am, and
- That restarts are limited to one per 168 hour-timeframe (i.e. one week).
Drive-time regs are still intact, allowing operators to drive no more than 11 hours per day, but drivers can restart the clock whenever they deem appropriate and safe. While truckers and trucking companies are rejoicing, the suspension could be temporary, with the DOT and DOT Inspector General performing a cost-benefit analysis.
Before they were originally passed, those in the know conjectured the provisions would have detrimental effect, by forcing more trucks onto the road during peak traffic times, thereby increasing the likelihood of accidents. For many, then, it wasn’t surprising that a new report released last month seems to corroborate the speculation.
For a study, the ATRI reviewed the GPS records of large trucks to quantify truck travel based on both the time of day and day of the week truck travel following the implementation of the HOS Restart Rule. The authors of the study then cross-referenced previous years’ pre- and post-July 1 crash data.
The study showed that the provisions had both intended and unintended consequences, according to the report, with some outcomes still to be determined:
- Intended: “The shift of truck trips from nighttime driving to daytime driving.”
- Unintended: “The higher numbers of crashes at other points in the driving schedule also appears to have occurred.”
- Uncertain: “What is presently not known is whether the net direct costs of the post-July 1 crashes are higher than any ostensible benefit that might be associated with the driving shifts [that resulted from the rule change].”
While the HOS restart provisions shifted truck traffic favorably—to daytime and weekdays—they also affected the opposite of the FMCSA’s original desired result—increased safety. Not only did the provision seemingly result in more accidents, there was also an increase in the number of injury and tow-away crashes. With the provisions currently suspended, hopefully the FMCSA will see the light, and eliminate the provisions altogether.