FMCSA seeks approval for survey of driver commute times

WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking approval from the Office of Management and Budget to conduct a survey about the amount of time commercial vehicle operators, including passenger bus drivers, commute to work.

The survey would fulfill Section 5515 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015, which requires FMCSA to conduct a study on the safety effects of motor carrier operator commutes exceeding 150 minutes.

The survey would include the number and percentage of drivers who commute; the distances traveled, time zones crossed, time spent commuting, and methods of transportation used; research on the impact of excessive commuting on safety and CMV driver fatigue; and the commuting practices of CMV drivers and policies of motor carriers.

The issue of commute time came to the forefront in June 2014 when truck driver Kevin Roper slammed into the rear of a van carrying comedian Tracy Morgan.

The crash killed comedian James McNair and seriously injured Morgan and others. Morgan, a former “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live” star, suffered brain trauma, broken ribs and a broken leg.

A report by federal transportation safety investigators said Roper was driving 65 mph in the 60 seconds before he slammed into the van. The speed limit on that stretch of highway is 55 mph and was lowered to 45 mph that night because of construction.

An NTSB investigation concluded in August that Roper hadn’t slept in the 28 hours before the crash.

Roper lived in Georgia, but was based out of Delaware. Officials said he spent a portion of the 28 hours commuting from Georgia to Delaware to pick up his load.

FMCSA said the survey would seek responses from 250 truck drivers and 250 passenger bus drivers.

FMCSA said the objective of the proposed survey would be to learn more about CMV driver characteristics such as work history; commuting time, transportation mode, and recording of that time; driving schedules; rests and breaks; miles driven annually; and demographics.

FMCSA said long commuting times can adversely affect CMV drivers in multiple ways, including reducing a driver’s available off-duty time for sleep and personal activities, which can lead to excessive fatigue while on duty and create safety concerns for both the CMV driver and others on the road.

The agency also cited a study of a region in Texas where 90 percent of the people commute to work. The study monitored more than 4,000 adults in the area. Results revealed the longer the commute the less physically fit the driver, including poorer cardiovascular health. The study showed that people who commute long distances to work weigh more, are less physically active and have higher blood pressure.

According to the FMCSA notice seeking approval for the survey, both the number of workers and distance to affordable housing have increased in the past two decades. Increased traffic delays have led to commuters spending an extra 7 billion hours in their vehicles in 2015.

Public comments on the data collection proposal will be accepted through Jan. 26, 2018. When or if FMCSA completes the study, it must be submitted to Congress within 18 months.

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