Fatigue Federal agencies Hours of service Trucking

New restart requirement reduces fatigue among truck drivers: study

Washington – Rest breaks used to “restart” truck drivers’ duty cycles are more effective at reducing fatigue when they include two periods of nighttime sleep, according to a study released Jan. 30 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Federal hours-of-service rules require restart breaks to last 34 consecutive hours to ensure drivers are sufficiently rested before their next duty cycle. To help improve the restart break’s effectiveness, a new rule that went into effect last July requires drivers to sleep for two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., when the body most benefits from sleep.

To comply with a congressional requirement to prove the new requirement improves safety, FMCSA commissioned third-party researchers to track 106 drivers using restarts through two duty cycles in early 2013. One group had only one nighttime sleep period during restarts and another group had two nights, matching the new requirement. Drivers with only one nighttime sleep period had more lapses of attention, were sleepier near the end of shifts and swerved out of their lanes more often. Drivers with two nighttime sleep periods slept more hours on average and scored better on alertness and fatigue tests.