The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration wants to extend the deadline for its truck driver hours-of-service rule as it seeks additional comments.
The Department of Transportation agency said last week it would extend the publication date of the final rule while asking for comments on four new studies.
The comment period on the proposal, published in the Dec. 29 Federal Register, closed in March. The FMCSA didn’t say how long it would keep the period open.
The rule could cut the amount of time truck drivers spend behind the wheel, alter shipping and distribution patterns and drive up transportation costs.
The FMCSA did not say when the final rule would be ready. Under a 2009 court settlement, the agency is supposed to have the rule ready by July 26.
The agency said on May 6 that it had advised parties to the settlement, including the Teamsters union and Public Citizen, of the need for an extension of the comment period.
Those groups argue the daily driving limit for truckers should be reduced from 11 to at most 10 hours — a step the FMCSA considers in its most recent proposal.
The FMCSA posted links to the studies, performed by researchers at the University of North Florida, Virginia Tech and Penn State University, on its Web site May 6.
University researchers examined the relationship between cumulative driving hours, driver fatigue and accidents for truck drivers and bus operators.
In general, the studies claim a link between extended driving and crashes — a claim disputed by many trucking companies and the American Trucking Associations.
The Penn State study reviewed truckload and less-than-truckload driver and crash data, including the logs of 878 truckload drivers and 686 LTL drivers.
Extended driving time was “substantially associated” with LTL crash odds, especially after six hours, the study said. “The highest odds are in the 11th hour.”
That runs counter to claims by the ATA and other trucking groups, which argue reducing hours of service would not generate “a material safety benefit.”
The ATA is “clearly skeptical” of “new research that has been discovered or generated by the DOT at the ‘11th hour,’” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said.