Jerry Donaldson, senior director of research at the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, is the group's truck expert and is very articulate on this issue. He even seems to have some understanding of real-world trucking issues.
"I have found a number of basic drawbacks to this rule which I am personally astounded have ever passed muster and made it into the Federal Register," Donaldson said. "The proposal does almost nothing to promote or increase safety of professional drivers or the drivers who share the roads with them. It has dismayed all sectors of the trucking industry, so as far as I can see the safety community is strongly opposed to this rule as well."
While Donaldson says his group is happy that the U.S. Department of Transportation "has finally admitted fatigue is a major cause of crashes," he says the proposal doesn't abide by prevailing research on fatigue. "It in fact openly distorts well known research findings to serve the convenience of claiming that the rule has adequate scientific foundation."
The cost-benefit analysis, which has come under attack by the American Trucking Assns. and other trucking groups, also falls under Donaldson's ax. He says it is "based on extremely tenuous and speculative assumptions, and … 50% of the benefits are paperwork reduction benefits, not safety benefits … The fact is that there are key assumptions that if they were changed, you would have a negative benefit cost ratio."
Donaldson says the proposal demonstrates how the DOT fails to understand how the trucking industry operates. The proposal treats regional drivers and long-haul drivers the same, he says, yet regional drivers more often drive at night in order to make morning deliveries, he says.
Many critics have pointed out that the proposal doesn't really address the issue of truck drivers having to do non-paid activities, such as loading and unloading. "This proposal not only makes not distinction between driving and on duty not driving, it has no provision for rivers showing how they spent time out of cab when they're not driving," Donaldson says. "Just-in-time deliveries will have to be made by maximizing available driving time, so drivers will drive up to the last available minute, and when they are importuned as they are now to perform other tasks, such as loading and unloading, they will do it during their off duty time and they will lie about it."
For more on how industry and safety groups have reacted to the hours of service proposal, see the June issue of RoadStar or Heavy Duty Trucking magazine.