National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
WASHINGTON, D.C. - National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Ellen Engleman today said that revised hours-of-service rules issued today by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are "an important step toward addressing fatigue on our nation's highways."
The rules address some concerns raised by the Board in recommendations that appear on the NTSB's Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements.
In a 1995 safety study on truck driver fatigue, the Board concluded that the most critical factors in predicting fatigue-related accidents are the duration of the most recent sleep period, the amount of sleep in the past 24 hours, and whether the sleep was split into shorter periods of time rather than one long period of time. As a result of the study's findings, the Board asked the FMCSA to revise the hours-of-service regulations to give drivers the opportunity to obtain at least 8 continuous hours of sleep. The Safety Board also recommended elimination of the sleeper berth exemption that allows drivers to split their 8-hour minimum daily rest between two separate periods.
Chairman Engleman said, "I am gratified to see that hours-of-service rules for those driving the largest and heaviest vehicles on our nation's highways are being significantly restructured for the first time since 1937. Our recommendations called for such action consistent with current scientific knowledge.
"The biggest step forward I see is the requirement for 10 hours of consecutive off-duty time, allowing the driver the opportunity to get at least 8 hours of sleep, probably the most important factor in preventing fatigue.
"The Safety Board will carefully review the new rules to see how closely they address our recommendations and the science upon which they are based, but I see this as an important step toward addressing fatigue on our nation's highways. I am heartened to see that a major segment of our transportation industry will be governed by updated hours- of-service rules."
Since 1990, the NTSB has issued an annual list of Most Wanted Safety Recommendations. Human fatigue has been on that list since its inception. The Board will review the list at its next public meeting scheduled for May 6.
NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.