The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) has continued its criticism of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s proposed hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, released publically on Dec. 23, 2010. ATA claims that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in applying data to back up its proposal, “misapplied its own crash numbers so as to elevate driver fatigue as a cause of truck crashes.”

“Since the current HOS rules were introduced in 2003, the trucking industry has achieved a continually improving safety record, reaching the lowest fatality and injury rate levels in recorded history,” said ATA president Gov. Bill Graves. “It is troubling that this complex, restrictive set of proposed rules is founded on what appears to be incorrect analysis and inflated math.”

(To read what others are saying to FMCSA about the proposal, go to www.regulations.gov and search “hours of service”).

The proposal, which FMCSA is accepting public comment on until Feb. 28, 2011, would retain the existing 34-hour provision that DOT said allows drivers to “restart the clock” on their weekly 60 or 70 hours by taking at least 34 consecutive hours of off-duty time. But under the new proposal, the restart period would have to include two consecutive off-duty periods from midnight to 6 a.m. Drivers would be allowed to use this restart only once during a seven-day period, noted DOT.

The proposed rule would also require truckers “to complete all driving within a 14-hour workday, and to complete all on-duty work-related activities within 13 hours to allow for at least a one-hour break.”

Click here to read previous coverage from FleetOwner on HOS

“A fatigued driver has no place behind the wheel of a large commercial truck,” Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said in announcing the proposal. “We are committed to an hours-of-service rule that will help create an environment where commercial truck drivers are rested, alert and focused on safety while on the job.”

ATA, though, said that FMCSA ignored its own Large Truck Crash Causation Study, presented to Congress in March 2006. According to ATA, that report stated that “No judgment is made as to whether any factor is related to the particular crash, just whether it was present.”

Despite this, ATA said that in the new proposal, FMCSA raises the fatigue factor dramatically despite contradictions in previous rulemakings.

“Using these data manipulations, FMCSA has nearly doubled in its analysis of the number of truck-involved crashes that are likely caused by fatigue,” ATA said in a statement. “Consistently, in past rulemakings, the Agency has found fatigue to be a causal factor in just 7% of crashes. In fact, in just 2008, the FMCSA noted that while the best data on fatigue as a factor in fatal truck accidents showed only a 2.2% relationship, it remained confident that its ‘7% figure is accurate.’ Now, apparently to assist it in reaching a desired result the Agency has ignored the real-world data and its past pronouncements and adopted a 13% fatigue factor.”

ATA also claims that FMCSA has engaged in “creative” accounting to justify its position. The trucking lobby said it will issue further news releases that will detail how FMCSA has lowered the projected costs to the industry by nearly $1 billion and increased the supposed benefits of the rule changes “by measuring assumed health benefits that it has long held are immeasurable and likely insignificant.”