Hearing Brings Hours Rule Showdown

The clock is ticking toward the March 4 deadline for public comments on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed hours of service rule, which is vigorously opposed by the American Trucking Associations.

The Feb. 17 listening session held by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration about its proposed hours of service rule brought both strong opposition and strong support, with supporters saying fatigue contributes to somewhere between 7 and 20 percent of the 4,000 large truck-involved crash fatalities annually while opponents said the proposal is not based on sound research or data.

FMCSA has been working for years to finalize an HOS rule, with federal appeals courts rejecting recent attempts. The American Trucking Associations strongly supports the rule now in effect and opposes the new proposal, contending it will impose high costs without producing safety gains. Trucking safety already is the highest it has ever been, ATA contends.

The organization recently announced that an independent review of FMCSA’s "Regulatory Impact Analysis" found that it overstates the proposal's benefits, and ATA Senior Vice President of Policy and Regulatory Affairs Dave Osiecki reiterated that point during the listening session, which was held in Arlington, Va., and webcast live and made available by phone. "Policy changes must be based on sound research and data, not pressure or politics," Osiecki said, "and their benefits must outweigh the costs. The proposed HOS changes do not pass the test on any of these principles."

Osiecki said the analysis relies on "hypothetical benefits" resulting from added sleep, even though FMCSA research has found drivers sleep six to seven hours per night already, a level that is "within the normal sleep range determined by the very research relied on by FMCSA."

"If there's no harm in that sleep range, there's no benefit in that range," Osiecki said. "FMCSA overlooked this conclusion and proposed almost $700 million in annual health benefits” on the premise that drivers will get more sleep, be healthier, and live longer. Because the industry has an unprecedented safety record operating under the current rules, Osiecki said, ATA "respectfully requests that FMCSA withdraw its hours-of-service proposal and stand behind good rules it developed and consistently justified for the past seven years."

Truck and bus company owners lined up to tell the agency that current rules work well, with several suggesting minor improvements.

FMCSA accepted online comments from noon until midnight Eastern time.

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