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Hours of Service Regulations and Road Safety

Road accidents involving heavy commercial vehicles often lead to severe damages and loss of lives. Truck driver fatigue plays a contributing role in many of these accidents.

In their efforts to increase road safety, governments world-wide are adopting stricter regulations concerning driving and working hours of truck drivers. However, it often remains unclear whether new regulations have the desired impact on road safety.

Accident in Germany due to driver fatigue

Asvin Goel, Professor of International Logistics at Jacobs University, Germany, and Thibaut Vidal, Researcher at CIRRELT in Canada as well as at MIT in the United States now analyzed and compared the impact of different hours of service regulations in different countries.

“Hours of service regulations are often quite complex. This complicates the daily life of truck drivers who have to comply with these regulations and makes it very difficult to analyze their impact on operating costs and road safety” says Asvin Goel. In Europe, for example, truck drivers must normally take a rest period of 11 continuous hours after driving for at most 9 hours.

However, due to additional provisions in the regulations, truck drivers may also take rest periods in two parts and can sometimes drive up to 10 hours a day while taking only 9 hours of rest. Professor Goel succeeded in modeling these rules and other regulations world-wide and, together with Thibaut Vidal, was able to quantify the impact of hours of service regulations on transportation costs and accident risks in Europe, North America, and Australia.

“Our experiments show that the highest road safety is achieved if only the basic provisions of the EU regulations are considered. By exploiting the additional provisions of the regulations, transport companies can significantly reduce transportation costs – however, this comes at the cost of higher accident risks which are comparable to the risks resulting from U.S. hours of service regulations which allow truck drivers to drive up to 11 hours without a rest. Australian regulations appear to lead to unnecessarily high accident risks which cannot be justified by increased operating efficiency. The lowest transportation costs can be observed for Canadian regulations” says Prof. Goel.

In their study Asvin Goel and Thibaut Vidal developed a new algorithm for vehicle routing with hours of service constraints. Besides of being used for the regulatory impact analysis, this algorithm can also be used by transport companies to optimize their routes while guaranteeing that drivers have sufficient time to take breaks and rest periods and are able to comply with the regulations. The algorithm outperforms all previous approaches and can be used for different regulations world wide. By using the algorithm companies can simultaneously minimize transportation costs and accident risks.

Judith Ahues | idw
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