The study that the FMCSA was supposed to complete before enacting its HOS changes has finally been published. Despite being months late – so late in fact that FMCSA administrator Anne Ferro has been chastised by members of congress multiple times for its tardiness – the study reveals nothing much to be surprised about. In fact the results are almost exactly what the FMCSA had been predicting. And yet, many in the industry feel that it still does not adequately justify the July 1st HOS changes.
Though the FMCSA is presenting their findings as data that can be used to understand the driving habits and abilities of the millions of professional truck drivers in America, only 106 drivers actually participated in the study… just 36 of whom were OTR drivers. They were broken into groups to test the effectiveness of different HOS options. One group had only five participants – a sample size that is far from optimal.
Chief among the study’s findings was that for the majority of drivers, overall attentiveness and safety was greatest using the hours and restart provisions that are currently in effect.
“This new study confirms the science we used to make the hours-of-service rule more effective at preventing crashes that involve sleepy or drowsy truck drivers,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. “For the small percentage of truckers that average up to 70 hours of work a week, two nights of rest is better for their safety and the safety of everyone on the road.”
The trouble with these findings is of course (other than the fact that other studies not funded by the FMCSA have directly contradicted them) that just because something is true for the majority of drivers, does not mean that it is true for every driver. By forcing every driver to adhere to what works for the majority of drivers, you are actually forcing the minority that it does not work for to become less safe.
Additionally, the study does nothing to address concerns that have been voiced by the industry, including the assertion that forcing drivers onto the road at the busiest times of the day will cause more accidents than the changes will prevent.
Both the ATA and OOIDA have already released statements saying that the study does nothing to justify the HOS changes that are in effect. Even Congressman Richard Hanna, one of the members of Congress who chastised the FMCSA for their study being past due, called the study “worthless” and “half-baked.”