Einstein Concludes Bus Lag Series: Disturbing Deficiencies in Hours-of-Service Regulations

In Part 5, the last of his installments about Bus Lag for National Bus Trader magazine, Ned Einstein focused on the totality of shortcoming in the regulations rather than just their failure to deter and forbid “shift inversion.” In the two accidents used as examples in this final installment, both drivers were in compliance with the HOS Regulations, yet were fatigued enough to create a catastrophic accident. These accidents illustrate the point that the Regulations, altogether, comprise an abysmal failure to control the factors that cause these accidents for a variety of reasons. These include the fact that paper driver’s logs are created on the “honor system,” and when fantasies, they are difficult to detect and enforce. More interestingly, while the regulations require drivers to remain off-duty for a period of eight hours between shifts – regardless of how unrelated a shift is to the one driven the previous day (i.e., leading to “shift inversion”), there is no way to prove that a driver actually got enough, if any, sleep between the two shifts.  Finally, while Congress has asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration  (FMCSA) to promulgate regulations for the testing/diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in 2015 (an easily-corrected condition that affects an estimated 30 to 40 percent of motorcoach and truck drivers), such regulations not only do not exist at the present time, but only the most “reasonable and prudent” companies (a minority of motorcoach operators) conduct such testing now. The concluding point about the current Hours-of-Service regulations is that they are almost entirely worthless: The one thing they forbid – driving more than 10 hours within a 15-hour span – is largely self-inducing without any regulations, since most drivers are pretty much exhausted at this point. In comparison, the many things that are not self-inducing – the predicting when a driver will develop “Bus Lag,” the ability to verify the accuracy and truth of driver’s logs, and the inability to determine whether or not a driver sleeps between shifts whenever they occur – are not captured by these regulations – even though we have the technology to determine every one of them (even if we cannot afford the level of law enforcement officers needed to ensure compliance).

The article about this conclusion, and the two accidents on which they are based, may be viewed in its entirety at www.translt .com – scroll down on the Home page to “Articles and Publications buy Ned Einstein,” click, and scroll to the link titled “Bus Lag, Part 5: Skipping the In-Between,” or read it, in hard-copy form, in the upcoming January, 2015 issue of National Bus Trader magazine to be released in early January.

This article involves a number of themes or topics that often combine to contribute to bus lag:

  • Motorcoach operations
  • Charter service
  • Route and Schedule Design
  • Use of Manual Driver’s Logs
  • Driver assignment
  • Driver/motorist fatigue
  • Management
  • Operations
  • Regulations
  • Fatigue and Catastrophic Accidents
  • Vehicle-to-Vehicle collisions

A short essay about “Fatigue and Catastrophic Accidents” may be viewed at www.transalt.com: Click on the link “Common Accident and Incident Scenarios” on the Home Page, scroll down to the link titled “Fatigue and Catastrophic Accidents” (or enter http://www.transalt.com/content/fatigue-and-catastrophic-accidents).