Circadian Technologies, a business consulting firm specializing in sleep patterns, is looking for consensus from sleep experts and over-the-road truckers on how the hours-of-service (HOS) rule could be changed.

Martin Moore-Ede, founder of Circadian Technologies, told FleetOwner that a survey sponsored by the American Trucking Assns. has asked truckers to consider variety of alternatives to the current HOS proposed by sleep experts and to choose which one best suits their schedule.

The aim of the survey, which is still in the information collection phase, is to find a middle ground between drivers and sleep experts that balances both productivity and healthy sleep, Moore-Ede said. “We have different scenarios we’ve created where sleep experts give choices between fixed scenarios, and we have large numbers of over-the-road truck drivers choosing from these choices.”

The survey is being conducted as FMCSA faces lawsuits over HOS on multiple fronts, including challenges by Public Citizen and other safety groups and a joint suit by Owner Operator Independent Driver Assn. (OOIDA)-California Trucking Assn. (CTA).

“The issue is that politics get in the way of science and safety and certainly that’s how the hours-of-service rules got out of whack,” he continued. “A lot of lawyers preach science that they don’t understand; it’s a battle between political forces.”

OOIDA and CTA filed a lawsuit arguing that the current split sleeper berth provision is impractical and advocated that FMCSA revert back to the more-flexible provision found in the 2003 rule for team drivers. The trucking groups said drivers preferred to be able to have shorter, more frequent rest periods.

FMCSA argued that research doesn’t support OOIDA’s position as an effective alternative to a single extended rest period called for by the current rule.

“[FMCSA’s] justification is very weak,” Moore-Ede said. “It’s based on studies done long before the current rules. They said that split sleep is bad because studies have shown that people sleeping only four hours have health problems. You can’t take science that says sleeping four to five hours a day is bad for your health and conclude you can’t have split sleep periods of four hours one period plus six hours another period [on the same day].”

The study also documents impractical work patterns that over-the-road truckers engage in to comply with the current rules.

“We’re seeing truckers around the country who are wondering who made up these crazy rules,” Moore-Ede said. “The truckers say no one could sleep on them and in reality they’re right. Some of the situations the rules force you into are quite absurd—you can’t take a nap when you’re tired otherwise you’ll run out of the 14-hour on-duty time.”

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