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FMCSA, ATA debate effectiveness of US hours-of-service rules

WASHINGTON, DC — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) responded to the recent US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report today that examined the agency’s 2014 study on the hours-of-service changes made in 2011 and implemented in 2013.

The GAO report is in response to a congressional request to review the findings of FMCSA’s January 2014 Field Study on the Efficacy of the New Restart Provision for Hours-of-Service.

The report looked at the rule’s assumptions and effects and concluded that the provisions decreased the number of fatal crashes, decreased the number of drivers working the maximum schedules, lowered the risk of driver fatigue and that there hasn’t been an increase of crashes between the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m rush hour time period.

“This GAO report provides further evidence that the changes FMCSA made to the HoS rules improve highway safety by saving lives and lowering the risk of driver fatigue,” said transportation secretary Anthony Foxx. “This reinforces our belief that these life saving measures are critical to keeping people safe on the roads. We value the GAO’s independent review and will use their recommendations to further strengthen our Department’s research to ensure that we have the best data available to keep our roads safe.”

The GAO report also found that FMCSA’s HoS study data support the finding that the provision requiring drivers taking a restart to be off-duty for two nights reduces fatigue.

“Our agency’s mission is safety, and we’re pleased that the GAO’s findings provide evidence of the positive impact of the 2011 hours-of-service rules,” said FMCSA chief counsel Scott Darling. “We view this report as a confirmation that our commitment to continually refining our research efforts to focus on the most effective safety outcomes is paying dividends.”

However, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) scolded the FMCSA for ignoring the bulk of the report and “cherry-picking” a handful of points in what they say is “a desperate effort to influence lawmakers.”

“It is unfortunate that rather than present an accurate and balanced characterization of the GAO report, FMCSA is once again living in Spin City,” said ATA executive vice-president Dave Osiecki.

The ATA said that the FMCSA cherry-picked four findings in a press release, claiming the GAO study found, fewer fatal crashes, fewer drivers working the maximum schedules, lower risk of driver fatigue, no increase in crashes during the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. morning rush hour, while in reality the GAO report says something much different.

The ATA says the report claims: that on crashes including on FMCSA’s “fewer fatal crashes” from its press release – GAO says “without additional data over a longer period of time, we are unable to robustly determine whether the HOS rule had an impact on crashes”; On FMCSA’s “fewer drivers working the maximum schedules” comment – GAO says “Findings are not representative of the motor carrier industry and are not generalizable”; On FMCSA’s “lower risk of driver fatigue” – GAO says “We found the field study’s sample size was insufficient to estimate statistically significant differences in the primary fatigue measure—the PVT—for each of these industry segments and times” and “Fatigue analysis is based on simulated schedules, is not representative of the motor carrier industry, and is not generalizable” and “While we agree that evidence generally supports that fatigue and crash risk are related, we are uncertain how fatigue differences of the size reported in the field study would be associated with crash risk. Thus, the safety implications and policy importance of the study’s estimated effects on fatigue may be overstated.”

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1 Comment » for FMCSA, ATA debate effectiveness of US hours-of-service rules
  1. Joe Licari says:

    I think that it is necessary to regulate a driver’s work day to try to address fatigue issues. But I also think recommendations, if not regulations, need to go beyond just the timing and quantity of rest time and also address the quality of rest time. Research is finding that poor sleep quality is a risk factor for health conditions as well as fatigue. Why isn’t more being done to ensure that drivers have a quiet and healthy environment in which to rest to promote quality sleep?

    Plus, breathing emissions is not healthy. Drivers can’t do anything about avoiding vehicle emissions while on the road but they could and should have a rest environment free of breathing diesel emissions while they sleep. My sentiment is that since the government mandates that they park for 10 hours a night and for at least 34 hours once a week (regardless of when the 34 hours occur) then the government should also help drivers to avoid a consequence of these mandates, namely, idling to provide heat or AC and cab amenities and having to breath their and each others fumes.

    I have not heard about any cars going of the road for a long time in my area but on Friday night a tractor trailer left I-90, went down an embankment and hit several trees, according to the report in the paper. The drive died at the scene. It was 7:00 am and the driver was 37 years old from Dallas, Texas. The report was lacking in details and my condolences go out to his family members but something is wrong here. Drivers should not be dying on the highway like this. And it is not just truck drivers. Last summer, also in NY, a tractor-trailer drifted from the left lane on I-90 and crashed into the back of a State Trooper’s car who had a car pulled over to the side of the road. The Trooper’ car was pushed of the highway and into an embankment and the Trooper was killed. Or how about the tractor-trailer that left I-90, crossed the median and crashed head on into a mini-van, killing a mother and two small children. The report mentioned that there were no signs of the truck driver applying his brakes. The picture of that mother and her two young children would make you want to cry.

    Accidents are hard to prevent but these accidents should not happen.

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