The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said in a new report to Congress that since the 2020 changes to the hours-of-service regulations took effect, hours of service violations have seen a significant uptick, while crashes and fatalities have held mostly flat.
The agency noted, however, similarly to its report to Congress on the effectiveness of the electronic logging device mandate, that “initial trends may have been confounded by the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on industry operations and FMCSA’s emergency declaration that provided HOS regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance in support of COVID-19 relief efforts.”
In the report, FMCSA analyzed inspection and crash data from Jan. 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2020 for the pre-change period, and Oct. 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021, for the post-change period.
Driver inspections with at least one hours-of-service violation increased from 7.6% before the HOS changes took effect to 8.5% after the changes, FMCSA said. Driver inspections with one or more out-of-service HOS violation increased from 2.6% to 3.2%. At the same time, the monthly large-truck crash rate per 100 million miles only increased from 5.58 to 5.7, and the monthly large-truck fatality rate per 100 million miles increased from 0.164 to 0.167.
Regarding crash trends, FMCSA said no conclusions can be drawn yet because the analysis could not distinguish between drivers using and not using the COVID-19 HOS waivers.
FMCSA said another approach that could be taken to understand the impact of the HOS changes would be to analyze the safety outcomes of drivers who took advantage of the new provisions and waivers. Plenty watchers around trucking have been in favor of an analysis particularly of safety outcomes among carriers who ran under the COVID waiver during its more than two-year history -- holding at least potential to underpin arguments for greater hours of service flexibility in the rules themselves.
In the report to Congress, FMCSA noted data limitations, too: “There is very limited data to support an in-depth analysis of the safety outcomes of carriers that took advantage of the new HOS provisions in comparison to those that did not,” FMCSA concluded. “The pre- and post-rule change macro trend analysis is limited in its reach given the scale of the HOS rule changes and other confounding factors.”