Did FMCSA Spin Report on HOS Restart?

July 31, 2015

By David Cullen

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The day after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration stated its general satisfaction with a Government Accountability Office study of the hours-of-service changes implemented in 2013, the American Trucking Associations slammed the safety agency for “cherry-picking” a few points “in a desperate effort to influence lawmakers.”

FMCSA said on July 30 that it agreed with GAO’s review of the 2013 changes made to the 34-hour restart provisions of the HOS rule.

“This GAO report provides further evidence that the changes FMCSA made to the HOS rules improve highway safety by saving lives and lowering the risk of driver fatigue,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

“This reinforces our belief that these life saving measures are critical to keeping people safe on the roads," added Foxx. "We value the GAO’s independent review and will use their recommendations to further strengthen our Department’s research to ensure that we have the best data available to keep our roads safe.”

In its news release, FMCSA highlighted four positive aspects of the GAO report. The agency said that “during the nearly 18 months in which the new restart provisions were in effect, the GAO report found evidence of reduced driver fatigue and enhanced roadway safety,” specifically in terms of fewer fatal crashes; fewer drivers working the maximum schedules; lower risk of driver fatigue; and no increase in crashes during the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. morning rush hour.

In addition, FMCSA advised that the GAO report also recommended that the Dept. of Transportation “adopt formal guidance outlining Agency research standards” and that Congress should consider “directing DOT to study and report on how electronically collected driver schedule data can be extracted, stored, and analyzed in a way that addresses cost and privacy concerns.”

Alluding to those two recommendations, Secretary Foxx had remarked that “We value the GAO’s independent review and will use their recommendations to further strengthen our Department’s research to ensure that we have the best data available to keep our roads safe.”

ATA, in a July 31 news release, claimed that FMCSA had “ignored the bulk of the Government Accountability Office’s report on the agency’s 2013 hours-of-service changes” and focused only on a “handful of points” that cast the rule change positively.

“It is unfortunate that rather than present an accurate and balanced characterization of the GAO report, FMCSA is once again living in Spin City,” said ATA Executive Vice President Dave Osiecki.

In making its point, trucking’s biggest lobby detailed at length elements of what “the full GAO report said”: 

  • On crashes including on FMCSA’s “fewer fatal crashes” from its press release– GAO says “Without additional data over a longer period of time, we are unable to robustly determine whether the HOS rule had an impact on crashes” (see Appendix VII, page 115);
  • On FMCSA’s “fewer drivers working the maximum schedules” comment– GAO says “Findings are not representative of the motor carrier industry and are not generalizable.” (see Table 2, page 26);
  • On FMCSA’s “lower risk of driver fatigue”- “We found the field study’s sample size was insufficient to estimate statistically significant differences in the primary fatigue measure—the PVT—for each of these industry segments and times.” (see Appendix II, page 58);
  • “Fatigue analysis is based on simulated schedules, is not representative of the motor carrier industry, and is not generalizable” (see Table 2, page 26)
  • “While we agree that evidence generally supports that fatigue and crash risk are related, we are uncertain how fatigue differences of the size reported in the field study would be associated with crash risk. Thus, the safety implications and policy importance of the study’s estimated effects on fatigue may be overstated.” 

ATA went on to claim that “in large part, FMCSA justified its July 2013 hours of service rules not with safety benefits, but by claiming hundreds of millions of dollars in assumed health benefits.”

The association then said that by contrast  GAO found that: “There are no data available to assess the health effects of the rule” (see Table 2, page 26) and that “Motor carriers and drivers reported no noticeable positive health effects from the rule.” (see Table 2, page 26) 

Also, per ATA, with respect to its prior field study, GAO said that: "These shortcomings leave the agency open to criticism over the integrity of the study and invite skepticism about the results.” (see page 42) 

“Not only did FMCSA’s field study shortcomings invite criticism,” said Osiecki, “so too does the agency’s attempt to spin the GAO findings. The public must have trust in its government. Unfortunately, FMCSA’s continued spin does not invite that trust.”

But the Trucking Alliance, a coalition of trucking businesses that lobbies for truck-driver safety, views FMCSA’s take on the report in a much different light.

“The GAO did an exhaustive review of the hours of service study and the Alliance has no reason to question the GAO findings or the FMCSA statement in support of the GAO findings," Lane Kidd, Managing Director of the Alliance told HDT. He added that, “The Alliance no longer comments on ATA policies."


  1. 1. Richard Gaskill [ August 03, 2015 @ 05:06AM ]

    That's kind of the pot calling the kettle black. Nobody can come close to ATA when it comes to putting a spin on statistics. ATA is the most hypocritical organization in existence. They cannot claim to be interested in safety while managing to have trainees drive as team drivers while the "trainer" logs sleeper berth time and begs to be allowed to have teenagers drive interstate because their low pay and high turnover has depleted potential victims of their exploitation in other age groups.
    The FMCSA and Congress are really ignorant not to see the reason for the driver "shortage" is due to poor working conditions and low pay. The have to resort to hiring teenagers that don't have normal costs of living.

  2. 2. Jeff Fitzgerald [ August 03, 2015 @ 07:27AM ]

    I agree with Gaskill. Likewise the FMCSA needs to put more efforts to getting bad drivers and carriers off the road. Good carriers and drivers know how to be safe, know to get rest when needed, take care of equipment know the best times to drive safely. If the Feds would put all this research money into enforcement rather than more rules we all would benefit. Example, I know of a good carrier, safe and compliant, yet has not been audited since 1987. This is one of the mandates of the FMCSA, CSA was developed to help carriers understand the weak areas while has issues but it works. But what bothers me is that I am on the road with my family and see bad drivers, bad equipment and WE let it go on. But lets make sure we keep taping into the HOS for solutions and keep reducing the pay of good drivers. The shortage of drivers is coming from the industry because we treat drivers like second class citizens. No one with half a brain is going to want to drive a truck in our present state.

  3. 3. Jason [ August 03, 2015 @ 09:33AM ]

    Great comments so far guys, very on point and I agree. The focus on the cause of a driver shortage is one thing that bothers me. How can the government expect to fix it, when they cannot manage the IRS, Post Office, VA, and many other entities? How can they expect to fix our shortage with more regulations and no increase in pay? Young people today do not see trucking as something they want to be a part of because of how difficult it is. Not only are the costs associated with it high, but the regulations are extremely tight, more so than most other industries. Instead of making it more difficult for people to operate, perhaps the answer is simplifying it and creating a positive image of the industry. Imagine for a minute, if the government spent as much money on ad campaigns to boost the image of trucking, instead of on wasteful studies and weak regulations that only hurt the owner/operator. Ah yes, actually having the government do something positive is a dream...

  4. 4. Jack [ August 07, 2015 @ 08:02AM ]

    That's the government you put there.
    Maybe instead of picking between donkey and elephant time to pick the right one.

  5. 5. Darren [ August 07, 2015 @ 09:23AM ]

    Hey Jack we put JFK in offace and the right wing assanated him! Big money special intrests and the right wing dont want reform, it would cut into there profits!!


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