An expert on U.S. transportation data says it "would be a serious mistake" to utilize the study on which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) relied heavily to justify its stalled hours-of-service reform proposal. The FMCSA plan, put on hold by Congress, would have set new limits on the amount of time professional truck drivers may spend behind the wheel.
Thomas N. Hubbard, an assistant professer of economics and strategy at the University of Chicago, found the study's data "unrepresentative" of the trucking industry and conclusions “not grounded in good evidence.”
However, the information has already been used by FMCSA as the basis for some of the measures included in its much-disputed proposal.
At the request of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), Hubbard reviewed the methodology and results of the 1997 University of Michigan Trucking Industry Program Survey (UMTIP), which was used by Michael Belzer, the project director of the hours-of-service impact assessment done under contract for FMCSA. The original UMTIP study became a critical part of FMCSA's justification of its hours-of-service proposal.
"ATA and its member motor carriers have insisted since day one that any new hours-of-service rule must be based on sound science and the operational needs of the industry," said president and CEO Walter B. McCormick Jr.
McCormick said the study mischaracterizes the trucking industry, and that basing a new rule on flawed information unnecessarily and unfairly threatens the livelihood of nearly 10-million workers in trucking.
“It would prevent us from continuing to do our job of delivering the U.S. economy safely and efficiently,” McCormick said.
Hubbard disputes further claims made elsewhere by Belzer that increasingly competitive labor and output markets since the industry’s 1980 deregulation have led to decreases in highway safety.
"If anything, fatal accident involvement rates are falling faster for trucks than cars,” Hubbard said. “This is evidence against the proposition that truck drivers are increasingly driving less cautiously than car drivers.”
After ATA pointed out the bad science and other deficiencies in the original hours-of-service plan, the Congress told FMCSA to go back to the drawing board, banning implementation of any new hours-of-service plan until October 2001.