Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to Study Potential Outcomes of Truckers Self-Regulation

The concept of truckers getting adequate rest has been an issue that has received a lot of press attention in recent years, especially after the notorious New Jersey wreck involving a Walmart driver and comedian Tracy Morgan.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has recently signed a contract with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in order to learn more about the impacts of when drivers are allowed to choose more freedom and flexibility over when they get rest.

The study, which will kick off in 2017, will explore the behaviors of 200 long-haul truckers who will not have to adhere to the current regulations, such as obtaining a consecutive 8- hour sleeping period. Federal authorities have long been involved in the process of trying to ensure that truck drivers get appropriate rest.

There are regulations that have been in place for the last 13+ years mandating how long truckers can be off-duty and how long they need to rest. In 2003, truckers were allowed to work up to 14 straight hours, but the driving part of their job had to conclude by the eleventh hour. Drivers are also mandated to take off a minimum of 10 straight hours between when they stop and begin driving again. One of the primary concerns about truckers’ safety as well as their freedom and flexibility currently has to do with those trucks that have a sleeping compartment. In 2003, drivers who had sleeping berths in their cab were required to spend two periods of at least 10 hours in the berth. Each period had to be two hours. In 2008, however, a change was made to mandate that at least 8 of those 10 hours were spent in the sleeping berth in one particular period.

The Director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Center for Truck and Bus Safety says that there is little reason to have this requirement if it doesn't actually have an influence on safety; this is part of what this study will intend to explore.

The company involved in this research study, SmartDrive, is based in California. The drivers will be outfitted with an electronic wristband to track their sleep and video cameras will be installed in the trucks in order to explore their behavior as well as berth conditions.

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