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U.S. to Study Flexible Sleeper Berth Rules for Truckers

Posted: January 6, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has decided to spend US$2.5 million to study a flexible hours-of-service safety provision that will allow long-haul truck drivers to split their required sleeper berth time into shorter periods.

Virginia Tech, along with subcontractors from Washington State University and SmartDrive, won the contract last month.

Commercial truck drivers in the U.S. are currently required by federal regulations to log at least 10 consecutive off-duty hours before returning to on-duty status.

Previous regulations allowed drivers to divide up their sleeper berth time, with some truckers and trucking groups pushing for a return to this policy that was changed in 2013.

“For some time now, sleeper berth drivers have called for flexibility with the hours-of-service requirements, and this study will provide the scientific foundation for FMCSA to understand what the safety benefits and impacts may be in allowing such flexibility,” said Rich Hanowski, director of the Center for Truck and Bus Safety at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and principal investigator for the study. “This pilot project will produce scientific data necessary to further inform FMCSA about this important safety issue that potentially affects the well-being of everyone traveling on our nation’s roads.”

Researchers will seek to recruit at least 200 long-haul truck drivers who regularly use their sleeper berths, including drivers from large, medium, and small carriers; owner-operators; and team drivers.

Using onboard video monitoring systems provided by SmartDrive, researchers will collect data about driver behavior. Information about drivers’ sleep patterns will also be collected using an activity monitor worn on the driver’s wrist. Collectively, the study will measure roadside violations, crashes and driver sleepiness.

“This study will examine the safety impact of providing participating drivers the opportunity to use a ‘sleep when you are sleepy’ strategy to manage their individual fatigue,” said Kimberly Honn, a post- doctoral researcher from Washington State University. “They will still be required to comply with the overall federal hours-of-service safety requirements, but during the study they will be allowed to exercise a degree of flexibility in logging sleeper berth time.”

“The onboard video monitoring system is uniquely capable of providing the insights required to understand the impact of flexible sleep schedules on driving,” said Steve Mitgang, CEO of SmartDrive. “SmartDrive is proud that our advanced video analytics platform, proven over millions of driving miles, has been selected to support this important study.”

The Center for Truck and Bus Safety at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has conducted approximately $50 million in safety-related research since the center was founded in 2005. Several studies led by the center have helped shape transportation policy in the U.S.

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