Truck Accidents May Be Reduced By Revised Driver Safety Rules: Study

According to the findings of a new federal study, recently revised safety rules for truck drivers could prevent 1,400 truck accidents and 19 deaths each year.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and researchers from Washington State University’s Sleep and Performance Research Center released a field study (PDF) this month, which looked at the effects of revised rules that restrict truck drivers’ hours in an effort to reduce the risk of them falling asleep on the road.

The findings indicate that the truck driver safety rules could prevent accidents and save lives, while having a minimal effect on work schedules.

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The study comes as a result of the Hours-of-Service of Drivers rule, published on December 27, 2011 and which went into effect in July 2013. It requires a two rest periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. over two consecutive days. As part of the 2012 transportation funding bill, Congress required the study to see that the rules were having a real-world benefit without negatively affecting the truck driving industry.

Researchers looked at 106 drivers hauling different loads. They found that drivers who had two consecutive nights of rest suffered fewer nighttime lapses than those who only had one.

“These results indicate that having at least two nighttime periods from 1 a.m. until 5 a.m. in the restart break helps to mitigate fatigue,” the researchers found. “Given that driver fatigue has been documented to be a risk factor for truck crashes, the new restart rule can thus be expected to help improve safety on U.S. roads.”

The researchers estimate that in addition to the prevention of 1,400 crashes and 19 deaths, each year, the rule will also prevent 560 injuries and affects only 15% of the driver workforce who work more than 70 hours a week.

Shipping companies fought the rules, saying that it would cause a three to five percent reduction in truck productivity.

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