American Trucking Associations (ATA) representatives and other trucking industry speakers gave the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) a clear message recently: “The current hours-of-service (HOS) rules are working. Retain them, but add flexibility to the sleeper berth provision.”
ATA Senior Vice President Dave Osiecki was the first of 21 speakers in the morning stretch of a day-long FMCSA listening session opened by FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. The listening session was the first of four held around the nation as the FMCSA again considers HOS changes requested by special interest groups like Public Citizen and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. Representatives from both of those groups spoke, but offered no new data or arguments for any changes at the session in Arlington VA.
In his remarks, Osiecki said the current HOS rules are based on a decade of extensive research and analysis. Additionally, the government now has extensive data and information from several years of real-world, operational trucking experience.
“In the very real world of trucking, highway safety has improved in the past six years under these rules,” he said. The rules are an effective and balanced approach to promote driver alertness, he said, noting that FMCSA had made adjustments that minimized the economic costs of the rules without compromising highway safety, driver health, or the industry’s productivity.
One change should be made, however. “FMCSA should give serious consideration to encouraging circadian-friendly sleep and naps by providing flexibility in the sleeper berth provision,” Osiecki said.
Safety concerns hypothesized by trucking industry critics and groups opposed to the current rules have simply failed to occur in the real world, Osiecki said. Drivers generally are not driving 11 hours every day, but using the 11th hour when congestion, weather, or unusual circumstances require it. A year ago, FMCSA strongly refuted the hypothesis that drivers are driving the maximum number of hours possible in a day and in a week.
“Absent new data, these predictions must continue to be rejected by FMCSA and the US Department of Transportation (DOT) and should, in no way, be a basis for any proposed changes,” Osiecki said. “In rulemaking and in litigation, FMCSA and DOT have said repeatedly that facts, not perception, must support the rules.”
To better address the true causes of fatigue in transportation, FMCSA should focus its resources on (1) sleep disorder awareness, training, and screening; (2) promoting use of Fatigue Risk Management Programs; (3) increasing the availability of truck parking on important freight corridors; and (4) partnering with the trucking and shipping communities to develop an educational process that identifies for drivers the location of available truck parking.