Virginia Tech to study trucker safety provision

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The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute will study the safety of allowing more flexible sleep requirements for long-haul truck drivers.

The institute, along with Washington State University and SmartDrive, received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) .

The team will study a proposal to allow drivers to split their required sleeper berth time into shorter time periods. Commercial truck drivers are required to log at least 10 consecutive off-duty hours before returning to on-duty status.

“For some time now, sleeper-berth drivers have called for flexibility with the hours-of-service requirements, and this study will provide the scientific foundation for FMCSA to understand what the safety benefits and impacts may be in allowing such flexibility,” Rich Hanowski, director of the Center for Truck and Bus Safety at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and principal investigator for the study, said in a statement.

Researchers will recruit at least 200 long-haul truck drivers who regularly use sleeper berths in their trucks. Onboard video monitoring systems from SmartDrive will monitor driver behavior, including roadside violations, crashes and driver sleepiness.

“This study will examine the safety impact of providing participating drivers the opportunity to use a ‘sleep when you are sleepy’ strategy to manage their individual fatigue,” Kimberly Honn, a post-doctoral researcher from Washington State University, said. “They will still be required to comply with the overall federal hours-of-service safety requirements, but during the study they will be allowed to exercise a degree of flexibility in logging sleeper berth time.”

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