House members call for GAO to evaluate FMCSA’s methodology in creating hours rule

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Updated Apr 4, 2014

hours truck eveningTwo members of Congress have asked the Government Accountability Office to evaluate studies done by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on the most recent hours of service regulations changes, which took effect last year, to check the agency’s research and methods used to create and back the rule.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa) and Rep. Thomas Petri (R-Wis.), two leaders on the House’s transportation committee, penned a letter to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, requesting that the GAO evaluate the agency’s recently released field study on the hours rule — specifically, the 34-hour restart provisions — and FMCSA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis used during the rulemaking process. 

Shuster, chair of the House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said because of the restrictive nature of the hours rule on drivers and carriers — particularly its potential impact on pay and productivity — “we have to be certain…changes to regulations…are well founded,” he said. 

“Concerns have been raised that these regulatory changes may have been enacted without proper data or analysis, and if the Administration is going to change the rules on truck drivers, we need to know that the changes were thoroughly vetted and will improve safety,” he said. 

For the agency’s field study, Shuster and Petri have asked the GAO to study whether FMCSA collected the right safety and operational data,  an accurate representative driver sample was studied, increased truck traffic was studied and the driver groupings used by the agency were appropriate. 

For the RIA used by the agency in its HOS rulemaking, the Congressmen are requesting the GAO ensure the consistency of the “assumptions and methodologies” of the RIA and FMCSA’s justifications for the rule, that crash data used in the RIA was “current and appropriate,” the assumptions the agency made about driver health were “appropriate and reasonable” and could be backed up with other data analysis and that no “errors, inconsistencies or assumptions” affected the agency’s “conclusions regarding the costs and benefits of the new regulations.”

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FMCSA released the results of its Congressionally required field study in late January, and it concluded that the hours rules boosts safety and makes drivers less fatigued. 

The agency’s findings, though, ran counter to those of trucking trade groups who performed their own studies: The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association in a survey of its members found that the rules have cost drivers miles and pay and have actually increased fatigue.

Similarly, the American Trucking Associations’ research arm the American Transportation Research Institute found that 50 percent of drivers operating under the new rules had seen their pay fall by at least 5 percent. Nearly two-thirds reported hat least some pay decrease, with 17 percent reporting a pay loss of 15 percent or more, due to the July 1, 2013, hours rule change. 

“I continue to hear concerns from drivers and companies in Wisconsin and around the country about the impact of this 34-hour restart,” said Petri, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.  “We need to make sure the requirements are based on sound facts and actually improve safety rather than just overwhelm the industry with another onerous regulation.”

In both the House and the Senate, bills are in committee that would, if passed, overturn the current hours of service rule at least temporarily and allow drivers to operate under the previous rules until the GAO has studied the agency’s methodology. 

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