ARLINGTON, Va. – In an effort to rationalize a change in federal Hours of Service (HOS) requirements for professional truck drivers, the U.S. DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) misapplied its own crash numbers so as to elevate driver fatigue as a cause of truck crashes, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) said today. Without this, and several other ill-considered revised assumptions, the proposed rule would fail the statutorily required cost/benefit analysis.
“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 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.”
In the HOS proposal’s Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA, the cost/benefit justification), FMCSA inflated its estimation of the percentage of fatigue-related crashes in two ways. First, it overstated the percentage of single-vehicle truck crashes (which are more likely to be fatigue-related) compared to multi-vehicle crashes. More specifically, FMCSA approximately doubled the weight given to single-vehicle truck crashes in its large truck crash causation study.
Second, FMCSA appears to be treating any crash in which fatigue is listed as an “associated factor” as a fatigue-caused crash. That approach is not just contrary to prior research methods, it is also at odds with the Agency’s own report to Congress, in which it stated that for associated factors: “No judgment is made as to whether any factor is related to the particular crash, just whether it was present.” See insert below.
Report to Congress on the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, March 2006. The LTCCS was based on crashes in calendar years 2001-2003, before the current HOS rules extended mandatory driver rest from 8 to 10 hours, curtailed the overall length of the workday, and brought driver schedules in harmony with the circadian rhythm. Examples of other “associated factors” in the LTCCS are emotion/experience, traffic, vehicle, roadway, weather and speed/distance, each of which has a higher prevalence as a factor than does “fatigue” but which, similarly, should not be read as a “principal cause” of a crash.
Using these data manipulations, FMCSA has nearly doubled in its analysis of the number of truck-involved crashes that are likely caused by fatigue. Consistently in past rulemakings, the Agency has found fatigue to be a causal factor in just 7 percent 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 percent relationship, it remained confident that its “7 percent 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 percent fatigue factor.
In addition to manipulating the fatigue factor (which inflates benefit estimations), the FMCSA has engaged in “creative” accounting in other areas of the new proposed HOS rules to try and justify its position. Other ATA releases will explain how the Agency has used very questionable approaches to lower the projected costs to the industry of its changes by more than $1 billion annually (a 50 percent reduction) and increased supposed benefits of the rule changes by measuring assumed health benefits that it has long held are immeasurable and likely insignificant.