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Work schedules of long-distance truck drivers before and after 2004 hours-of-service rule change

McCartt, Anne T.; Hellinga, Laurie A.; Solomon, Mark G.
Traffic Injury Prevention (TIP)
May 2008

Objectives: Federal rules regulate work hours of interstate commercial truck drivers. On January 4, 2004, a new work rule was implemented, increasing daily and weekly maximum driving limits and daily off-duty requirements. The present study assessed changes in long-distance truck drivers' reported work schedules and reported fatigued driving after the rule change. Associations between reported rule violations, fatigued driving, and schedule as well as other characteristics were examined.
Methods: Samples of long-distance truck drivers were interviewed face-to-face in two states immediately before the rule change (November-December 2003) and about 1 year (November-December 2004) and 2 years (November-December 2005) after the change.
Results: Drivers reported substantially more hours of driving after the rule change. Most drivers reported regularly using a new restart provision, which permits a substantial increase in weekly driving. Reported daily off-duty and sleep time increased. Reported incidents of falling asleep at the wheel of the truck increased between 2003 (before the rule change) and 2004 and 2005 (after the change); in 2005 about one fifth of drivers reported falling asleep at the wheel in the past month. The frequency of reported rule violations under the old and new rules was similar. The percentage of trucks with electronic on-board recorders increased significantly to almost half the fleet; only a few drivers were using automated recorders to report rule compliance. More than half of drivers said that requiring automated recorders on all large trucks to enforce driving-hour limits would improve compliance with work rules. Based on the 2004-2005 survey data, drivers who reported more frequent rule violations were significantly more likely to report fatigued driving. Predictors of reported violations included having unrealistic delivery schedules, longer wait times to drop off or pick up loads, difficulty finding a legal place to stop or rest, and driving a refrigerated trailer.
Conclusions: Reported truck driver fatigue increased after the new rule was implemented, suggesting that the rule change may not have achieved the goal of reducing fatigued driving. Reported violations of the work rules remain common. Because many trucks already have electronic recorders, requiring them as a means of monitoring driving hours appears feasible