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FMCSA reacts to the 34-hour restart suspension

By John Bendel, editor-at-large

How does the FMCSA really feel about the 34-hour restart suspension? Perhaps there’s a clue to the agency’s attitude in this apocryphal Federal Register entry.

Or maybe not.

THE FEDERAL REGISTER

AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

RULE: Hours of Service for Drivers

ACTION: Update

SUMMARY: Congress in an insouciant snit has ordered FMCSA to lift the hours-of-service (HOS) regulation that limits the use of the 34-hour restart provision to once every 168 hours (which we believe sounds more regulatory than “week” or “seven days”). We’re cool with that, because it’s temporary – just until a study shows how wrong they are.

All we need is one participating driver in the control group to, for example, take down a bridge. He will obviously have done so because he failed to include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. in a restart. Congress will clearly see its duty: Suspend the suspension or kiss America’s bridges goodbye. The original restart rule will return.

Indeed, the rule was correct when we promulgated it in 2011. It was becoming increasingly clear then that we could not have drivers randomly sleep when they think they’re sleepy rather than when they should be sleepy, nor could we tolerate drivers restarting willy-nilly. After all, it has been shown that such disciplinary pandemonium is inimical to social order, never mind truck stop decorum.

So we required that any 34-hour restart include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Statistics plainly show truckers shouldn’t drive between 1 and 5 when they have nobody to bump into but each other. Better they should hit the road at dawn and mix it up with school buses. Keeps everybody on their toes.

Moreover, it was never the intention of this agency to circumscribe the operational discretion of drivers, merely to encourage them in the most genial way possible to do things our way. Our goal is fatigue management, and we can’t manage fatigue unless drivers are sleepy when they’re supposed to be sleepy, not any time they like. The restart rule nudges truckers intelligently toward that goal, like horses toward the paddock.

By the way, expect a notice of proposed rulemaking to mandate Sleep Number mattresses, summer eiderdown comforters, and St. Genève eiderdown pillows for every sleeper berth – though we will allow drivers a choice between silk and cotton.

We do try to be reasonable. LL