Fatigue and long driving hours have been implicated in many commercial truck crashes over the years. Some studies have reported that roughly 30 percent of them were due to driver fatigue.
Under federal regulations, commercial drivers are permitted to drive no more than 10 hours before having an 8-hour break and cannot work more than 70 hours over an 8-day period.
Several studies have suggested that violations of these rules are common. In fact, in a Journal of Public Health Policy article, titled “Long Hours and Fatigue: A Survey of Tractor-Trailer Drivers,” investigators talked to 1,249 semi drivers.
What they found was rather alarming. Thirty-one percent of the drivers admitted to having driven more than the weekly hours-of-service limit of 60 hours over seven days or 70 hours over eight days.
Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released details of a congressionally mandated study that started earlier this month. The study measures and compares the fatigue and safety performance levels of truck drivers who take at least two nighttime rest periods during their 34-hour restart break and those drivers who use one nighttime rest period during their restart break.
The Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Driver Restart Study is comparing five-month work schedules and assessing crashes, near-crashes, crash-relevant conflicts, operator fatigue/alertness, and short-term health outcomes of the two groups of CMV drivers.
According to FMCSA officials, the sample of drivers will be large enough to produce statistically significant results. The study will be comprised of drivers from small, medium, and large fleets across a variety of operations (long-haul, short-haul, and regional). The study plans to include different sectors of the industry such as flat-bed, refrigerated, tank, and dry-van.
Data for this study started being collected this month and will end in July. Participants of this study can earn up to $2,166. They will also be equipped with a camera facing inward and a camera facing the road to monitor driving patterns. They will also be required to complete a five minute health background survey, sleep diary, caffeine log and perform smartphone based assessments. The data collected will remain confidential.