Changes to the hours-of-service rules “did not show a significant difference in most crash-related metrics,” according to a report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Prompted by a 2018 petition from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, four changes to the agency’s hours of service took effect in September 2020.
- The on-duty limits for short-haul operations increased from 12 to 14 hours and from 100 air-miles to 150.
- The adverse driving provision extended the driving window two hours if the driver encounters adverse driving conditions. In the final rule, the definition of “adverse driving” was modified so that the exception may be applied based on the driver’s (and the dispatcher’s) knowledge of the conditions after being dispatched.
- In addition to splits of 10/0 and 8/2, drivers are allowed a split-sleeper option of 7/3. Also, the qualifying period doesn’t count against the 14-hour window.
- The 30-minute break provision was modified to require the break after eight hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time) and allows an on-duty/not driving period to qualify as the required break.
After the hours-of-service rule changes took effect, Congress directed FMCSA to study the effects.
According to the recently released report, those effects are largely inconclusive, partially because of unforeseen factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The data do not show a significant difference in crash or fatality rates, although it is important to note that initial trends may have been confounded by the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on industry operations and FMCSA’s emergency declaration that provided HOS regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance in support of COVID-19 relief efforts,” the agency wrote in the report.
FMCSA suggested that analyzing the safety outcomes of those who took advantage of the new hours-of-service provisions may shed more light on the effects.
FMCSA also recently released a report on the effects of the 2017 electronic logging mandate. According to that report, compliance with the hours-of-service regulations have improved. However, it was not clear that the increase in compliance led to improved highway safety.
According to the report, only 0.77% of driver inspections yielded at least one hours-of-service violation in December 2021. That’s a significant decrease compared to December 2017 when 1.19% of inspections found violations.
But have ELDs actually improved safety?
FMCSA’s report won’t go that far, blaming the lack of a clear answer on unexpected variables, such as the pandemic.
Based on the number of crashes in recent years, it would be difficult to argue that ELDs have made any significant improvements to highway safety.
According to the most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, overall traffic fatalities decreased slightly in 2022 but are still up considerably since 2017. NHTSA’s stats show that 42,795 people were killed in vehicle crashes in 2022. That is a 0.3% decrease from 2021’s traffic deaths data, which shows 42,939 people were killed. However, the number of fatal crashes have surged since 2017 when there were 37,473 traffic deaths. LL