Obama Administration's Final Hours-of-Service Rule Puts Safety in the Backseat

From Movin out Mag...Leaders of the American Trucking Associations expressed their frustration and disappointment that the Obama administration issued an unjustified final rule governing hours-of-service that will do nothing to improve highway safety, but will very likely increase the risk of truck-involved crashes.

"The announcement of a new rule on the hours-of-service is completely unsurprising. What is surprising and new to us is that for the first time in the agency’s history, FMCSA has chosen to eschew a stream of positive safety data and cave in to a vocal anti-truck minority and issue a rule that will have no positive impact on safety," ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. "From the beginning of this process in October 2009, the agency set itself on a course to fix a rule that’s not only not broken, but by all objective accounts is working to improve highway safety. Unfortunately, along the way, FMCSA twisted data and, as part of this final rule, is using unjustified causal estimates to justify unnecessary changes."

"Even with an uptick in truck-involved fatalities in 2010, since the current rules went into effect in 2004, fatalities have fallen 29.9%, even as overall miles traveled for trucks has risen by tens of billions of miles," said ATA Chairman Dan England, chairman of C.R. England, Salt Lake City. "No one can dispute these facts.

"By forcing through these changes FMCSA has created a situation that will ultimately please no one, with the likely exception of organized labor," England said. "Both the trucking industry and consumers will suffer the impact of reduced productivity and higher costs. Also, groups that have historically been critical of the current hours of service rules won’t be happy since they will have once again failed to obtain an unjustified reduction in allowable daily driving time. Further, it is entirely possible that these changes may actually increase truck-involved crashes by forcing trucks to have more interaction with passenger vehicles and increasing the risk to all drivers."

"This rule will put more truck traffic onto the roadways during morning rush hour, frustrate other motorists and increase the risk of crashes," Graves said. "By mandating drivers include two periods between 1 a.m. And 5 a.m. as part of a 'restart' period, FMCSA is assuring that every day as America is commuting to work, thousands of truck drivers will be joining them, creating additional and unnecessary congestion and putting motorists and those professional drivers at greater risk. The largest percentage of truck-involved crashes occur between 6 a.m. and noon, so this change not only effectively destroys the provision of the current rule most cited by professional drivers as beneficial, but it will put more trucks on the road during the statistically riskiest time of the day.

"If there is a positive in this rule, it is the lengthy period of time before it becomes effective," Graves said of the 18-month delay in the rule’s compliance date. "This will give ATA time to consider legal options. And, by delaying implementation of this rule, the agency is acknowledging there is no safety crisis on our highways."

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