34-hour restart rollback: inspector general to audit study

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The Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) announced earlier this week (Feb. 10) it will begin an audit of Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Congressionally required study of the 2013 rules governing drivers’ use of a 34-hour hours-of-service restart.

The OIG says its objective is to “determine whether FMCSA’s design and implementation of the restart study complies with the requirements of the act.”

The announcement came in a letter from the OIG’s Mitchell Behm, assistant inspector general of Surface Transportation Audits.

Behm’s letter to FMCSA says the OIG is waiting on a plan from FMCSA that “outlin[es] the scope and methodology for the study,” at which point it will work with FMCSA to conduct the audit.

The agency’s study on 34-hour restart rules was required by the 2015 appropriations bill passed by Congress and signed by the president in December.

The bill suspended the 2013 restart rules — the requirement that a restart include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods and the once-per-week limit of its use — pending the agency’s study.

FMCSA will be studying two groups of drivers for a minimum of five months. One will abide by pre-2013 rules and one will be restricted to using post-July 2013 rules.

Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), who’s heading the study, will use electronic logging devices, high-tech watches, psychomotor vigilance tests, cameras and other systems to determine operator fatigue levels. It will also gather data on crashes, near-crashes and other crash-relevant events.

VTTI will produce the study, which must be submitted to the DOT’s Office of Inspector General, the Secretary of Transportation and Congress.