The release, issued August 9, painted those who oppose the proposal as anti-safety.
The release read, in part, "However, many trucking industry interests seem opposed to reform. They prevailed upon their Congressional allies to place a provision in the Senate bill that would prevent the U.S. DOT from spending any funds to continue this 'or any similar rulemaking' -- in short, shutting down the regulatory process. This is not a case of the U.S. DOT rushing a proposal to completion before the end of the Clinton Administration. This is raw use of political power by specific trucking interests to stop progress."
In a letter the next day to Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, David Addington, senior vice president and general counsel of ATA, asked that Slater prevent his subordinates from using such tactics in the future. Addington also asked for a review by the DOT's Inspector General of whether the release constitutes a violation of laws prohibiting the use of appropriations for "publicity, propaganda, or prohibited communications designed to influence legislation."
Addington writes, referring to the passage above: "In four short sentences, your subordinates impugned the good faith of U.S. Senators and many in the trucking industry, re-wrote history to ignore the initial Department of Transportation objective ... to issue a new hours of service regulation before the current Administration leaves office, and, perhaps most distressing of all, castigated a segment of the American public for exercising its First Amendment right under the Constitution to petition the Government, in this case Congress, for redress of grievances."
On Friday, David Osiecki, vice president for safety and operations at ATA, wrote to Clyde Hart, acting deputy administrator for the FMCSA, pointing out statements he said were misleading.
First, Osiecki said, the release states that "fatigue is a significant and growing factor in accidents in all modes of transportation." However, Osiecki says, a study prepared for the FMCSA by the University of Michigan showed a "clear downward trend over the 17 years shown."
Second, Osiecki says, the release states that "truck driver fatigue is the main or contributing factor in 15 percent of all commercial vehicle accidents, 755 deaths and more than 19,000 injuries every year." Osiecki notes that in the hours of service proposal, "the agency tentatively estimates that 15 percent of truck-involved fatal crashes are 'fatigue-relevant.'" Osiecki points out that the uncertainty of this "tentative estimate" is further highlighted by last month's General Accounting Office study, which points out that DOT officials stated that they "did not have a firm analytic basis" for the fatigue estimate.
Both letters are available in full in the Safety Net section of ATA's web site at www.truckline.com.