A sign entering town said “78% of all statistics are made up.” While I thought this was a bit cynical, over time I have come to see this as one of life’s truisms. Unfortunately, many groups, including our government, manipulate statistics to justify their actions.

Earlier this week, the American Trucking Association filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, illustrating that federal rules governing Hours of Service would add tremendous cost to the economy and undue burden onto drivers while providing minimal possible safety benefits. How did FMCSA justify the rulemaking? They did it with reliance on faulty statistics. 

ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said “FMCSA systematically, and without regard for science or logic, distorted the available data in order to fit it to a predetermined and arbitrary outcome.”  In order to justify the new Hours of Service rulemaking, FMCSA claims that 13% of all truck crashes were caused by fatigue, when the very study they relied upon showed that only 2% of crashes were caused by fatigue. Did FMCSA just lie? Not exactly. The study showed that fatigue was present during 13% of crashes, which was then exaggerated to causing 13% of crashes.

 We all know that there a number of issues present during a crash. So why does the federal government distort the data to justify the rulemaking? Because they claim that giving drivers an additional 7.8 minutes off each day will result in more restorative sleep and thus better rested and more alert drivers. Only time will tell.

 

Kurt M. Rozelsky, Smith Moore Leatherwood, LLP, Greenville, SC. Chair, DRI Trucking Law Committee

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On June 8, corporate America joined the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) in a joint venture to encourage employers to adopt policies to discourage distracted driving by employees. In their collaboration, the Better Business Bureau will feature a link from their website to a free tool kit that provides employers with sample company policy, memo to employees on that policy, company press release, and other materials. Also, the BBB website will provide videos from DOTs “Faces of Distracted Driving” video series.

This follows the DOTs ban on commercial motor vehicle drivers from texting while driving and the Obama Administration's ban on federal employees from doing the same. Those bans followed a October 2009 study by the Virginia Tech Traffic Institute, it was reported that texting while driving raises the risk of a safety critical event 26.3 times. Thus proving what we knew all along - no one is really good at multi-tasking - especially when driving down the road at 55 mph.

As our texting population grows so will the level of distraction. One of the featured speakers for the 2011 DRI Annual Meeting, New York Times columnist Matt Richtel, won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for his series called Driven to Distraction. Richtel has studied this issue extensively and cites a New York Times poll that 50% of Americans believe texting-while-driving should be punished at least as harshly as drunken driving. Richtel also questions whether, once we reached this state of constant distraction, we can ever be focused again.
 
Now, how many times were you distracted by the phone, e-mail, internet or a colleague while reading these few short paragraphs? It took me 30 minutes, three phone calls, four websites and 13 e-mails in that time just to return to the focus of this piece. It is a good thing I am not driving.

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FMCSA Expands HOS to Require EOBRs

Posted on February 16, 2011 07:56 by Kurt Rozelsky

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently announced an expansion to its Proposed Rule on Hours of Service (HOS) to include a requirement that ALL truckers subject to HOS rules must utilize Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBR) by June 2012. The Proposed Rule, yet another cost to the trucking industry, comes as carriers are struggling with decreasing rates and a shortage of drivers. FMCSA opined that Truck Owners would only experience a one-time cost of $1,500 to $2,000 per truck, but they also claim claim the cost would be offset by an estimated savings of $688 per driver annually in record-keeping costs. Unfortunately, while the Proposed Rule clarifies the requirements for Supporting Documents, it still requires these carriers to continue to maintain numerous records as supporting data, just not to verify driving time.
 
The Alliance for Driver Safety and Security, a coalition of five large carriers many of whom have already installed EOBRs on their trucks, has been pushing for EOBR legislation through Congress. However, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association immediately criticized the proposal as requiring "over-priced record keepers" used by the Obama Administration to "wipe out small businesses by continuing to crank out overly burdensome regulations that simply run up costs."  
 
This David versus Goliath saga will play out through the public comment period to the Proposed Rule, which ends April 4, 2011.

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As the trucking industry awaits a final decision on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's proposed amendments to the current Hours of Service rules, the American Trucking Association has published a white paper and accompanying website illustrating the efficacy of the current HOS rules. In the white paper, the ATA notes that during the seven years the trucking industry has operated under the current HOS rules, the rate of truck-involved highway crash fatalities is down 33% and is at the lowest level since records began being kept in 1975. Further, fatality, injury and property-damage only crash rates for large trucks per 100 million miles driven are at their lowest in over 30 years.
 
As the ATA points out, the battle is driven more by politics than empirical data. The Obama Administration is bowing to the public interest groups and the teamsters, who insist that further restrictions on drivers are necessary. Although not yet published, the new HOS Rules are expected to include a reduction in the maximum driving time in each shift, a reduction in the maximum work time in each shift, and an increase in the number of consecutive hours of off-duty time required to restart the weekly work time. All of these changes will be made under the guise of increasing driver health, but really just serve to saddle the struggling trucking industry with more regulations designed to increase the number of drivers - many of whom are potential Teamster members.

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