FMCSA to study truck drivers’ commuting habits, safety impacts

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced intentions to survey truck drivers about the time they spend commuting in their personal vehicles, seeking to determine how often truckers’ commutes to their driving jobs exceed 2 and a half hours. The agency also says it intends to study the ramifications of “excessive commuting on safety and driver fatigue” after the survey’s completion.

FMCSA has filed a request with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget to proceed with the survey. If cleared by OMB, the agency will publish a notice asking drivers to take the survey. The agency says it aims to have at least 500 drivers (divided equally among truck drivers and bus drivers) complete the study. The FAST Act highway law enacted in 2015 directed FMCSA to perform the research.

The agency will seek feedback on drivers’ work history, commuting times, transportation mode, drivers’ schedules, rest periods and breaks, annual miles driven and demographic information.

A high-profile crash on the New Jersey Turnpike in 2014, which killed comedian James McNair and severely injured actor Tracy Morgan, shed light on the potential for long commutes by truckers to undermine hours of service limits. Truck driver Kevin Roper, who allegedly fell asleep at the wheel before rear-ending Morgan’s Mercedes Sprinter Van in June 2014, had commuted 800 miles from Georgia to Delaware the morning before beginning his on-duty driving period for Walmart’s private fleet. The National Transportation Safety Board said Roper’s fatigue was the key cause of the crash.

Roper reportedly had only slept 4 hours in the 33 hours prior to the crash. However, he was well within hours of service limits at the time of the crash.

In its request to the OMB to proceed with the study, FMCSA says long commutes can “compromise off-duty time” and “lead to excessive fatigue while on duty, creating safety concerns.” Long commutes can also adversely impact drivers’ health, the agency contends.

FMCSA is accepting public feedback on its request for the commuting survey until January 26. Comments can be filed at this link.