As you likely have read by now, the Truck Safety Coalition, Public Citizen and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety have submitted comments to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on the proposed Hours of Service rule and recommended dropping the allowable driving time each day to an unprecedented eight hours.
While we believe that’s too drastic a reduction, we asked Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety to explain the recommendation.
Today, we print her response in full:
“Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is pleased to respond to your inquiries concerning our position on the need to reduce the long hours of work and driving currently in effect for truck drivers that are permitted by the Hours of Service (HOS) regulation first adopted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2003. I should indicate at the outset that all of the answers to the questions you pose are contained in the court filings and docket comments that Advocates has made public over the past 10 years. Please retrieve these documents for more detail about our responses.
“Advocates has emphasized repeatedly that Trucks in Fatal Accidents (TIFA) of the University of Michigan is not a reliable barometer of fatigue-related fatal truck crashes. That conclusion was also found by Dr. Ken Campbell of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and was contained in his report to the FMCSA. Advocates also separately analyzed TIFA in our comments to the various HOS dockets and stressed the enormous discrepancies in reported fatigue-related fatalities between adjacent states, including states that clearly are radically under-reporting fatigue-related deaths, a finding also explicitly stated by Dr. Campbell in his report to the agency.
“In sum, FMCSA based its inferences on fatal crash relative risk on TIFA data. Those data are highly defective, which we have pointed out to FMCSA on repeated occasions.
“With regard to the claim that fatal fatigue-reported crashes increased by 20 percent from 2004 to 2005, that data comes from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which is publicly available and is administered by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Again, the specific statement of the figures and their source is contained in the analysis Advocates has provided in our docket comments.
“Furthermore, Advocates does not regard the prior HOS regulation as acceptable. Advocates views the prior HOS regulation as a dangerous rule that also demanded excessive working and driving hours for truck drivers, with inadequate opportunity for rest and recovery. Accordingly, we believe that HOS driving and working hours per day and per week for either rule are excessive and violate decades of research findings showing repeatedly that worker safety, health, and performance decrease rapidly after about the eighth hour of consecutive working hours, and that shifts of 11 and 12 hours are strongly associated with substantial increases in the relative risk of performance errors that lead to deaths and injuries. Those findings have been documented extensively in Advocates’ comments to FMCSA HOS rulemaking dockets and in our briefs to the appellate court hearing the cases safety groups have brought against the agency.
Truck drivers are driving longer hours in each shift than ever before, including an increasing percentage of drivers each year using the 11th hour of driving in each shift. Accordingly, the number of drivers at risk of fatal crashes has been increasing over the past few years as more drivers use the 11th hour of driving. This has been confirmed by surveys conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. On a weekly basis, drivers are driving longer hours than permitted under the regulation prior to 2003, and this has also been confirmed by industry surveys such as the survey conducted a few years ago by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA).
“Advocates believes that the science is clear and convincing: excessive working hours, especially in a high-risk occupation like truck driving, promotes sleep deprivation, fatigue, low alertness, and increased frequency of performance errors that lead to crashes, injuries, and deaths. The current rule needs to be reformed to provide truck drivers a HOS regime that demands far fewer hours of work and driving from them and provides them much more time for rest and recovery. “This is particularly important for truck driver health, which suffers due to the inordinate demands of long hours of work and driving, as well as loading and unloading cargo. Removing the last sweat shops in America is long overdue.”
If you are interest in reading the documents to which Ms. Gillan refers, which do go into very much more detail, they are easily found through any Internet search engine.
Lyndon Finney of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
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