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Trucking groups, lawmaker critical of FMCSA study

Dave Osiecki, ATA executive vice president and chief of national advocacy said the report failed to evaluate the safety effects or efficacy of the once-per-week restart restriction, commonly called the 168 hour rule. (The Trucker file photo)

The Trucker News Services

1/30/2014

ARLINGTON, Va. and WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s study on the effectiveness of the new 34-hour restart provision took it on the chin Thursday from two of the largest trucking associations and a Congressman. Arlington, Va.-based American Trucking Associations officials said while they appreciated the release of the study commenting on the efficacy of recent changes to the restart provisions of the Hours of Service rules, what the report doesn’t say may be as significant as what it does.

“We appreciate FMCSA releasing the results of its restart field study,” said Dave Osiecki, ATA executive vice president and chief of national advocacy. “However, in many respects this short report is lacking critical analyses on several important issues.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association expressed skepticism.

“The study does not appear to us to be representative of those actually affected by the newer Hours of Service so we are skeptical it can be applied to the larger population within the industry,” Norita Taylor, media spokesperson, told The Trucker.

Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., who introduced legislation to nullify the rule until six months after the FMCSA had reported to Congress on the study, called it “worthless.”

Meanwhile, a top executive at a major carrier said his company was still studying information released today, but said from what they've gleaned from the report so far is not consistent with what he and other executives at Werner Enterprises hear from drivers.

“We haven't had time to properly analyze the study, but the feedback we consistently receive from our own drivers deviates from those findings,” Derek Leathers, Werner's president and COO, told The Trucker. “As we continue to examine our own data regarding how the new rules have affected our accident frequency, we are firmly committed to safety and believe it can be achieved most effectively through private and public collaboration rather than through strict regulations alone.“

The ATA's Osiecki said as the report indicates, this new research found that drivers with fewer nighttime rest periods may have incrementally slower reaction times — for example — as short as one-third of one second and a modest increase in lane deviations, ATA said.  FMCSA is cautious, though, in suggesting how important these findings are regarding the rule’s efficacy.

ATA said the report failed to evaluate the safety effects or efficacy of the once-per-week restart restriction, commonly called the 168-hour rule.  Similarly, the study did not address the real-world safety implications of putting more trucks on the road during daytime hours, a time when more passenger vehicles are also on the road.

“The study acknowledges that the two or more night restart periods result in more trucks on the road during the day, but it does not address the corresponding safety or congestion impacts,” Osiecki said.

Additionally, the study does nothing to evaluate health benefits of the restart changes which were used to justify the rule change, the ATA said.

Hanna criticized the agency for its tardiness in releasing the report and said the outcome validated the need for Congressional action.

“Considering the study arrived four months late, I expected a robust report, but the study is worthless,” he said. “First, FMCSA is telling millions of truckers when they are tired, but the study only examined 100 truckers from three companies. In addition, the study’s narrow scope does not address perhaps the most serious issue that could change the entire outcome of the study – forcing truckers to work in the morning rush hour when roads are most congested and dangerous. This half-baked study only underscores the need to legislatively delay the rule and have GAO conduct an independent analysis of the study so we can get a credible account of what this rule will truly mean for the safety of truckers, commuters and businesses.”

Osiecki also called the report incomplete.

While it includes some findings favorable to certain portions of the new restart rule, the incomplete nature of the analysis and the lack of justification for the once-weekly use restriction is consistent with the flawed analyses that led the agency to make these changes in the first place,” he said.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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