A number of trucking publications have reported this week that the more restrictive hours of service restart rules—put in place in July 2013 and suspended in December 2014—will be permanently eliminated. Those rules required that a truck driver's restart must include two rest periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. and that the restart could only be used once per week.
When the rules were suspended at the end of 2014, Congress directed the Department of Transportation to conduct a study to determine whether the 2013 restart rules improved safety. Since that time, the FMCSA and Virginia Tech have studied the effect on two groups of drivers: those following the 2013 rules and those following the old rules.
According to the publication Overdrive:
The study has not yet been made public, but a letter issued by the Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General confirms the report's conclusions. The study’s results dictate the removal of the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. provision and the removal of the once-weekly limit. The study found that truckers abiding by the July 1, 2013, regulations operated no more safely than truckers not abiding by the rules.
The new HOS rules caused an uproar in the industry when they were first implemented in 2013. The rules led to less flexible scheduling and many drivers complained that they lost money and that the changes made driving less safe by putting more trucks on the highway during the morning rush hour. Long haul trips were affected the most, as the 34-hour restart combined with mandatory breaks could turn what was once a two-day trip into a three-day trip.
Industry analysts estimated that the 2013 rules resulted in a 3-5% loss in productivity. At the same time, rates increased only about 1.6%, causing carriers to absorb the increased cost of compliance. For a look back, see our December 2013 blog post Carrier Rate Increases Don’t Cover Productivity Loss.