Researcher contends FMCSA misused his work

March 3, 2011
A prominent researcher who worked directly on the primary scientific studies that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration used to support its proposed changes to the current hours-of-service (HOS) rules said the agency misapplied those studies’ findings.

A prominent researcher who worked directly on the primary scientific studies that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration used to support its proposed changes to the current hours-of-service (HOS) rules said the agency misapplied those studies’ findings.

FMCSA used the work of Dr Francesco Cappuccio, a physician, professor, and researcher at Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom, who reviewed 16 published studies on the effect of sleep duration on mortality and co-authored a 2007 study the agency relied on most heavily to support its proposal. FMCSA used this study to conclude that short projected increases in sleep could generate roughly $690 million in annual health benefits for drivers.

In a new report, Cappuccio unequivocally states the agency misused his sleep research and concluded that FMCSA cannot use it to quantify benefits to justify its regulatory changes.

Cappuccio writes that “[t]he current evidence . . . do[es] not support the conclusions of the FMCSA that a small increase in sleep duration of a few minutes following the HOS options proposed, particularly in the groups with baseline daily sleep of more than six hours per night, is likely to decrease the mortality risk of individuals or groups.”

Further, Cappuccio states there is “no evidence to prove, that without additional measures, a simple reduction in work hours will result in increased sleep time.”

He cautioned that the sleep duration/mortality studies do “not demonstrate or even imply a cause-effect relationship” and warned it was “premature to address specific policy changes on the basis of the published relationships between sleep time and mortality risk.”

“American Trucking Associations has said since the outset that policy changes of this scope need to be based on sound science and research, not political pressure and unproven theories,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “The fact that this prominent physician and sleep researcher clearly states the agency is wrong to use his and others work in this way clearly exposes the serious flaws in this proposal.”

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