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Hour Discontent ATRI research finds significant flaws in FMCSA’s 34-hour restart benefit-cost calculations


On July 1st the trucking industry saw

yet another change to theHours-of-Service (HOS) rules go into effect. While the impacts of these changes on the supply chain are just beginning to play out, there is little question in the industry that there will be impacts and that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) underestimated the costs these changes will extract from the economy. Since the implementation of the first

far-reaching changes to theHOS regulations in 2003, there has been significant debate and uncertainty related to the rules. FMCSA’s HOS rules govern both the number of hours a commercial driver may be on-duty and operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), as well as how much rest is required between work periods. Safety benefits aside, the rules are critical to the financial viability of drivers and motor carriers; theHOS regulations limit the time that is allowed for earning income, and non-compliance carries severe penalties. From 2010 through mid-2013 a rulemaking

process took place to change theHOS. That process considered decreasing daily driving allowances, limiting the use of the 34-hour restart and requiring many drivers to take a 30-minute rest break. The final rulemaking ultimately included two changes or provisions to the 34-hour restart rule and a 30-minute rest break requirement. The American Transportation Research

Institute (ATRI) recently published its assessment of the two 34-hour restart changes – limiting the restart to one every 168 hours and the requirement that restarts include two consecutive off-duty periods from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. – and found a significant delta between the FMCSA-purported benefits and likely costs to the industry. As part of the rulemaking process, FMCSA


conducted a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) for the rules changes, which calculated a net benefit of $205 million annually, with $133 million of that net benefit calculation estimated by ATRI to be attributed to the restart provisions. FMCSA’s cost-benefit analysis is based on the agency’s assertion that the costs and benefits are limited to the 15 percent of the 1.6 million over-the-road drivers with the most intense driving schedules. This limitation forms the basis for two significant problems with the FMCSA analysis. First, many drivers in the remaining 85 percent of the population will likely experience productivity losses due to the restart provisions, yet these costs were not included in the FMCSA assessment. Second, the 15 percent of drivers with the most extreme driving schedules are practically nonexistent according to data representing normal industry operating patterns. The result is only limited costs or benefits associated with this population.

ISSUE 4, 2013 |

FMCSA identified this 15 percent of the

driving population using logbook data sourced from compliance reviews and safety audits as the foundation of their analysis. These data are by their very nature skewed toward drivers operating at the higher limits of available hours. As a result, the FMCSA analysis greatly overestimates the benefits of the restart provisions, while at the same time ignoring the productivity losses that all driver-types will experience under the new HOS rules. In order to develop a more accurate

analysis of the costs and benefits of the changes to the 34-hour restart, ATRI assembled a large and unique set of logbook and survey data, which were critical in documenting how the restart provisions would impact motor carrier and driver operations. The ATRI research team first conducted a survey of more than 500 motor carriers and 2,000 drivers and with this data,


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