Annette Sandberg has come out in support of changes to the 34-hour restart provision. In a June 17 letter to leaders of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Transportation, Sandberg, who served three years as Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration under President George W. Bush, said the changes to the restart provision imposed by the current administration were "done without the benefit of proper scientific research, and [are] hurting highway safety - as well as the economy.
Sandberg also slammed critics of the recent amendment proposed by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, for trying to link calls for a roll-back of the 34-hour restart provision to the recent New Jersey crash involving a Walmart truck and comedian Tracy Morgan.
"Current evidence ... indicates the cause of this crash had nothing to do with the provisions being addressed in Senator Collins' amendment," she said in the letter. "To imply that these changes had anything to do with crash in New Jersey is political opportunism at its worst."
In the letter, Sandberg explained to the Senators that the current restart rules could actually compromise safety rather than enhancing it by forcing more trucks onto highways during early morning hours.
The practical effect of these restrictions, an effect the current head of the FMCSA has called "unintended," is to push more truck traffic onto the highways at 5:01am - or when when America's commuters are hitting the road to go to work or when children are heading to school, the letter says.
"These early morning hours are the riskiest time of day for trucks to be on the road," notes . "A truck driving between midnight and 3am is a third less likely to be involved in a crash as one traveling between 6am and 9am.
"Suspending these changes -- while keeping the remaining hours-of-service rules intact -- in order to fully study the impact of shifting more truck traffic to daylight hours is a common sense solution to this problem."
Sandberg, a principal at TransSafe Consulting, also seems to suggest the current administration's preoccupation with fatigue might be misplaced.
"The fact is, while an important issue to address, fatigue is not the number one issue in truck safety," she wrote. "Truck driver fatigue is listed as a cause in less than 2% of truck crashes -- but due to underreporting in the wake of these tragedies, the true figure is probably between 6% and 8%. Excess speed. Distracted driving. Aggressive driving. These are all more important highway safety issues that are not being addressed fast enough by the government."
Click here to read the full text of Sandberg's letter to Senate Transportation Subcommittee leaders.