Study: Drivers need flexibility within work, rest rules

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Commercial truck drivers need greater flexibility within federal driver work and rest rules to allow them to select sleep times and duration based on individual need, according to a study released Tuesday, March 6, by the American Trucking Associations and sleep research firm Circadian International.

Through a first-of-its-kind research project, ATA and Circadian evaluated whether features of the current hours-of-service rules are meeting their intended purpose of improving sleep, driver alertness and safety. One such provision is the sleeper-berth rule, which requires drivers to split sleeper-berth rest segments into two periods, one of which must be eight hours.

Studying compliant and noncompliant driving scenarios, 11 sleep experts and 67 professional truck drivers found that allowing drivers to select sleep times and lengths to suit their individual needs maximized sleep opportunities, facilitating better alertness and safety on the nation’s highways.

“We found a clear consensus in favor of increased flexibility between leading sleep scientists who have studied driver fatigue, and truck drivers who use sleeper berths on a regular basis” says Dr. Martin Moore-Ede, chief executive officer of Stoneham, Mass.-based Circadian International. “These are the two groups probably most qualified to judge the impact of the current HOS split-sleep and 14-hour clock rules on driver alertness and safety.”

ATA in large part supports the HOS rules implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2004, but believes the rules should provide greater flexibility for both solo and team drivers who utilize sleeper berths.

“Motor carriers for decades have safely utilized the flexible sleeper-berth provisions to assure their drivers obtain needed rest,” says Bill Graves, ATA president and CEO. “Flexibility in the splitting of sleep periods mitigates fatigue and affords inherent protections that are critical for the safety of our drivers and the motoring public.”