Fuel Smarts

Expert: Study Used in HOS Proposal Flawed

May 30, 2001

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A national expert on U.S. transportation data says it "would be a serious mistake" to use the study on which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration relied heavily to justify its much-maligned hours-of-service reform proposal.

According to the American Trucking Associations, Thomas N. Hubbard of the University of Chicago found the study's data "unrepresentative" of the trucking industry and its conclusions "not grounded in good evidence."
Unfortunately, says ATA, the misinformation has already been used by FMCSA as the basis for some of the more extreme measures included in its controversial proposal. The proposal is stalled out by order of Congress while the agency reviews mountains of comments received.
Hubbard is an expert in understanding and using data from the federal government's Bureau of the Census' Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey, a survey conducted every five years to provide information on the U.S. truck fleet. At ATA's request, he compared this information to the 1997 University of Michigan Trucking Industry Program Driver Survey, which was used by Michael Belzer when developing his Hours-of-Service Impact Assessment for FMCSA.
The UMTIP survey was conducted at truckstops in the Midwest. Largely because of this method, Hubbard says, it under-represents drivers who don't frequent truckstops: drivers working for private carriers, drivers who work close to their home base, and drivers hauling goods in trailers other than dry or refrigerated vans. In addition, it over-represents owner-operators, he says, and long-distance drivers.
"It is a serious mistake to take the drivers in the UMTIP Driver Survey sample as representative of truck drivers, or even over-the-road drivers, as a whole," Hubbard says. "The UMTIP Survey simply does not provide evidence for the claim that more than half of all drivers exceed the 60-hour weekly hours of service limit."
Belzer himself is a controversial figure. The University of Michigan researcher's book "Sweatshops on Wheels" drew the ire of ATA and the Truckload Carriers Association when it was released last year. The Hubbard review (available at www.truckline.com) disputes Belzer's claims that increasingly competitive labor and output markets since deregulation in 1980 have led to decreases in highway safety.
"If anything,' says Hubbard, "fatal accident involvement rates are falling faster for trucks than cars. This is evidence against the proposition that truck drivers are increasingly driving less cautiously than car drivers."

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