President Barack Obama signed on December 16 the appropriations bill that halts enforcement of the requirement that a drivers’ 34-hour restart include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods and the once-per-week limit of the restart.
Though the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is required by the law to produce a Federal Register notice to alert drivers, enforcers and other stakeholders of the change, the stay of enforcement is now legally in effect, meaning truck operators no longer have to abide by the restart provisions put in place in July 2013.
Aside from the suspension of the restart provisions, however, the law requires the FMCSA to study the rules’ impacts on drivers, carriers and safety. The agency must present a report to Congress concluding the rules boost safety before the restart provisions can go back into effect.
Hours of Service Study Required
Congress is requiring the report study provide data that determines whether or not the 2013 restart provisions can provide a greater net benefit for the operational, safety, health and fatigue impacts they cause.
To gain the necessary data, the FMCSA will have to study two groups of drivers that are “each large enough to produce statistically significant results, according to the bill. One group will operate under post-2013 restart provisions and the other under pre-2013 restart provisions. The study must be conducted for at least five months with the FMCSA comparing the two groups based on safety critical events — crashes and over fatigue levels of drivers.
The law orders that the drivers being studied, which will be derived from a range of applications and fleet sizes, will have their fatigue levels gauged by Psychomotor Vigilance Tests, actigraph watches and cameras and “other on-board monitoring systems that record or measure safety critical events and driver alertness.”
After complete data collection, the FMCSA must submit a final report that would be sent to a review panel consisting of “individuals with relevant medical and scientific expertise.”
Throughout the entire process, however, the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General must keep tabs on the agency to ensure the methodology used in the data collection is appropriate and the panel to review the study is qualified.
Timeline of the Study
The FMCSA must initially submit a report to the DOT’s Office of the Inspector General within 60 days of the bill signing (December 16), outlining how it plans to execute the study. Within 30 days of receipt of the report, the OIG must report back to the agency and House and Senate committees with any changes.
After receiving the OIG’s recommendation, the FMCSA then has up to 210 days to produce its final report based on its research. The agency must also make its report available to House and Senate committees and post it online.
The OIG must review the report and within 60 days tell the FMCSA and Congressional committees if the agency complied with the requirements of the funding law.
Only after it addresses any concerns of the OIG — and if it concludes the restart provisions enhance safety — would the FMCSA be cleared to enforce the 2013 restart rules again.