HOS Restrictions Do Not Demonstrate Clear Benefit
In early March, the Department of Transportation (DOT) Inspector General’s office shared the results of their audit of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) hours of service (HOS) restart guidelines. The Inspector General determined that the study complied with the necessary requirements, and reinforced a prior conclusion from the DOT that the study did not identify a clear benefit from the mandated provisions intended to increase health and safety by reducing operator fatigue.
The hours of service (HOS) restriction has jammed up supply chains by forcing trucks to drive fewer hours in the name of safety. However, it now appears that the mandatory break periods do not, in fact, make commercial vehicle operation any safer. As such, the restart provisions have been eliminated.
The US Congress reviewed the tenets of the FAST Act and raised urgent concerns about the possible unintended consequences, including increased congestion during peak traffic hours. These concerns led to the suspension of FMCSA’s enforcement of two provisions in the 2015 Appropriations Act. Congress mandated an in-depth study of the ruling and required further study of the operational, safety, health, and fatigue ramifications. The Inspector General at the DOT IG was also mandated to review the study.
Summary of HOS Regulations:
FMCSA issued HOS regulations in December 2011, effectively establishing daily and weekly driving limits. These regulations also implemented required rest periods for commercial vehicle drivers. The regulations became effective on July 1, 2013 and with the following mandates:
- Operators may drive 11 hours in a 14-hour window after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty,
- Operators may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days, and
- Operators may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty (the 34-hour restart rule)
- Commercial drivers must include at least two nighttime periods (defined from 1 a.m. until 5 a.m.) in restart breaks and may only use the 34-hour restart once every 168 hours.
The results from the DOT study provide no conclusive evidence to confirm the efficacy of the HOS regulations. As such, these previously mandated break regulations have been suspended until further notice from the DOT.