ATA: HOS ‘obsession’ prevents progress on pressing safety concerns

With the Obama administration currently weighing what he calls “unnecessary changes to the current hours-of-service rules,” American Trucking Assns. president & CEO Bill Graves said the focus on truck driver hours by advocacy groups and the current leadership at the Dept. of Transportation has prevented progress on a number of other, more pressing safety concerns.

With the Obama administration currently weighing what he calls “unnecessary changes to the current hours-of-service rules,” American Trucking Assns. president & CEO Bill Graves said the focus on truck driver hours by advocacy groups and the current leadership at the Dept. of Transportation has prevented progress on a number of other, more pressing safety concerns.

“Report after report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s own Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) to the most recent annual report on truck and bus safety facts shows that fatigue is not a leading cause of crashes,” Graves said in a statement. “By putting an incredibly resource-intensive focus on this rule, FMCSA and these advocacy groups have foregone progress on areas ranging from speed to safety technologies to driver training that would have a much larger impact on highway safety.”

Drawing on the LTCCS and other federal data sources, three-quarters of all fatal and serious truck crashes involve at least one other vehicle, typically a passenger car, Graves said. “In a majority of cases, accident investigations assign the critical reason for the crash to the passenger vehicle, but when it is assigned to the truck, nine times out of 10, the issues lie with the actions of the driver.

“Put most simply, these crashes are caused by unsafe driver behaviors such as speeding, driving too fast for conditions or distracted and inattentive driving; or unfortunate mistakes related to unfamiliarity with his or her surroundings or driving conditions,” Graves said. “We have long advocated that FMCSA do more to address aggressive and unsafe driving and for the increased use of advanced safety technologies, but to date those pleas have been largely overlooked.”

ATA has promoted and sought support for return to a national maximum 65-mph speed limit for all vehicles, mandatory speed limiters on all large trucks, widespread implementation of proven enforcement and education programs like TACT (Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks), stronger, uniform CDL rules, incentives for vehicle collision warning systems and improved education for all drivers through the Share the Road and America’s Road Team programs, he added.

“DOT’s preoccupation with determining the size and stickiness of the hours-of-service Band-aid to address complex fatigue issues in order to cater to small, organized labor-backed and perhaps well-intentioned ‘safety’ advocates, has done little to address the vast majority of car-truck crashes,” Graves pointed out.

“The 2009 Truck and Bus Safety Facts report from FMCSA showed that fatigue was the cause of just 1.4% of crashes and the Large Truck Crash Causation Study said fatigue was associated with, but not the cause of, 13% of crashes,” Graves said. “That means that between 87% and 98% of serious crashes will be unaffected by changing the hours rules.

“When looking at highway safety, regulators have an obligation to spend the public's resources to implement programs and countermeasures that will do the most good, and it seems clear that the leadership at DOT and FMCSA are failing to address larger crash causes in order to placate special interests fixated on a relatively small part of the crash problem,” he said. “We hope that policy makers will do more to address the bulk of truck-involved crashes because the trucking industry, which has a vested interest in keeping our highways safe, and the motoring public deserve better.”

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