Key legislators seek GAO review of HOS studies

April 3, 2014
The chairmen of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and its highways and transit subcommittee have asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to evaluate two studies that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration used to justify changes to hours of service (HOS) regulations for commercial motor vehicle drivers. Effective July 1, 2013, drivers can restart their cumulative duty time only once a week, and that 34-hour restart must include two consecutive periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Most drivers also must take a 30-minute break during their driving shift.

The chairmen of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and its highways and transit subcommittee have asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to evaluate two studies that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration used to justify changes to hours of service (HOS) regulations for commercial motor vehicle drivers.

Effective July 1, 2013, drivers can restart their cumulative duty time only once a week, and that 34-hour restart must include two consecutive periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Most drivers also must take a 30-minute break during their driving shift.

In a letter to Comptroller General of the United States Gene Dodaro, committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and subcommittee Chairman Thomas Petri (R-Wis.) asked that the watchdog agency review the regulatory impact analysis (RIA) used to justify the rule change and a study released in January that concluded drivers operating under the new restrictions had fewer lapses in reaction time.

Regarding the RIA, the lawmakers asked GAO to evaluate whether the assumptions and methodologies are consistent with FMCSA analyses supporting prior HOS rulemakings.

They also want to know whether the crash data the agency used was current and appropriate and whether violation data was based on a representative sample of the industry.

Shuster and Petri further asked GAO to assess whether driver health assumptions were appropriate and whether expectations that the assumed health benefits would be realized in a real-world environment are appropriate.

And they asked whether errors, inconsistencies, or assumptions in the RIA affected FMCSA’s conclusions regarding the costs and benefits of the new regulations.

Concerning the study of the performance of drivers operating under the new restart, Shuster and Petri asked GAO to evaluate whether FMCSA collected proper safety and operational data and whether the number and type of drivers included was representative of the commercial driver population. They also want to know whether additional daytime truck traffic was analyzed for safety outcomes and weather driver groups were appropriate.

FMCSA’s change in the restart provision has prompted hearings in the House and led Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) to introduce a House bill (H.R. 3413) that would reverse the change in the restart until six months after GAO completes a study on the methodology. That measure currently has 66 co-sponsors. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) has introduced the same bill (S. 1891) in the Senate.

“Millions of American truckers are critical to the flow of commerce in our country, and we have to be certain that any changes to regulations impacting their ability to properly do their jobs and earn a living are well founded,” Shuster said in announcing the GAO request.

“I continue to hear concerns from drivers and companies in Wisconsin and around the country about the impact of this 34-hour restart,” Petri said.  “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.”

About the Author

Avery Vise | Contributing editor

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