The current FMCSA hours of service rule for truck drivers has been subject to much criticism on multiple grounds.  Now a Minnesota-based motor carrier has applied for an exemption in order to try another method of fatigue management.  Considering the merits of night-time sleep and power naps when fatigued during the day, with electronic monitoring, the company’s proposal may have a lot of merit.

Dart Transit Co., based in Eagan, MN, has applied for a two-year exemption from two provisions of the hours-of-service regulations so that 200 of its owner-operators can operate in order to try a fatigue risk management system that would encourage quality nighttime sleep and use electronic onboard recorders to monitor drivers’ rest schedules.

“The purpose of this is to reduce driver fatigue by implementing a scientifically validated, risk-informed, performance-based fatigue risk management system,” says Gary Volkman, Dart’s vice president of safety and compliance. Dart believes the program will increase safety; improve the health, lifestyle and retention of drivers; and improve customer service. “What we want is a rested driver behind the wheel," Volkman says. "But we want a little more flexibility around when he gets that rest.”

Echoing criticisms of the HOS rule that have shown up in litigation and elsewhere, Dart argues that the 14-hour rule often penalizes drivers who stop to take a nap or sleep for less than eight hours – even when this opportunity occurs at night and is sensible for reducing fatigue. The requirement that split rest be taken in blocks of at least eight hours and two hours encourages drivers who have been on duty at night to try to obtain all or most of their sleep during the daytime hours when they are least likely to obtain sleep that is of good quality or long duration, Dart says.

Under Dart’s plan, the 200 owner-operators would be exempt only from the 14-hour clock and the split-rest limits. All other hours-of-service rules – 10 hours minimum daily rest, maximum 14 hours on duty per 24 hours, 11 hours driving per day and 70 hours per 8 days – would still apply.

A big focus of Dart’s plan is nighttime, or nocturnal, sleep, which studies have shown to be preferable. The company would use EOBRs and wireless communications to ensure that each driver’s truck is not moving for a minimum of six consecutive hours sometime during the period of 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. each night. In addition, Dart would use software from Circadian Technologies to analyze driver fatigue risk on a daily basis. Exempt drivers and their fleet managers would get these scores, along with instructions on how to improve them, such as temporary reductions in workload.

If FMCSA authorizes the exemption, Dart would take applications from owner-operators and conduct health screenings on applicants to exclude those at risk of untreated sleep disorders. The company also would provide education and training on fatigue and sleep to the participants and their fleet managers.

The Shigley Law Firm  represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a "SuperLawyer" in Atlanta Magazine and one of the "Legal Elite" in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks.