The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is taking the next step in making hours of service (HOS) limits more flexible, awarding a $2.5 million contract for researchers to study a safety provision that will allow truck drivers to split their required 10-hour sleeper berth time into shorter periods. Virginia Tech will conduct the study.
Federal regulations had allowed drivers to split their rest in sleeper berths until 2005. Then, FMCSA’s rule change eliminated split rest for solo drivers and allowed team drivers to split rest only in very limited circumstances.
“For some time now, sleeper berth drivers have called for flexibility with the hours-of-service requirements, and this study will provide the scientific foundation for FMCSA to understand what the safety benefits and impacts may be in allowing such flexibility,” said Rich Hanowski, director of the Center for Truck and Bus Safety at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and principal investigator for the study. “This pilot project will produce scientific data necessary to further inform FMCSA about this important safety issue that potentially affects the well-being of everyone traveling on our nation’s roads.”
The study will measure roadside violations, crashes and driver sleepiness.
“This study will examine the safety impact of providing participating drivers the opportunity to use a ‘sleep when you are sleepy’ strategy to manage their individual fatigue,” said Kimberly Honn, a post-doctoral researcher from Washington State University. “They will still be required to comply with the overall federal hours-of-service safety requirements, but during the study they will be allowed to exercise a degree of flexibility in logging sleeper berth time.”
The Center for Truck and Bus Safety has conducted approximately $50 million in safety-related research since the center was founded in 2005.