“This GAO report provides further evidence that the changes FMCSA made to the HOS rules improve highway safety by saving lives and lowering the risk of driver fatigue,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
“This reinforces our belief that these life saving measures are critical to keeping people safe on the roads," added Foxx. "We value the GAO’s independent review and will use their recommendations to further strengthen our Department’s research to ensure that we have the best data available to keep our roads safe.”
In its news release, FMCSA highlighted four positive aspects of the GAO report. The agency said that “during the nearly 18 months in which the new restart provisions were in effect, the GAO report found evidence of reduced driver fatigue and enhanced roadway safety,” specifically in terms of fewer fatal crashes; fewer drivers working the maximum schedules; lower risk of driver fatigue; and no increase in crashes during the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. morning rush hour.
In addition, FMCSA advised that the GAO report also recommended that the Dept. of Transportation “adopt formal guidance outlining Agency research standards” and that Congress should consider “directing DOT to study and report on how electronically collected driver schedule data can be extracted, stored, and analyzed in a way that addresses cost and privacy concerns.”
Alluding to those two recommendations, Secretary Foxx had remarked that “We value the GAO’s independent review and will use their recommendations to further strengthen our Department’s research to ensure that we have the best data available to keep our roads safe.”
ATA, in a July 31 news release, claimed that FMCSA had “ignored the bulk of the Government Accountability Office’s report on the agency’s 2013 hours-of-service changes” and focused only on a “handful of points” that cast the rule change positively.
“It is unfortunate that rather than present an accurate and balanced characterization of the GAO report, FMCSA is once again living in Spin City,” said ATA Executive Vice President Dave Osiecki.
In making its point, trucking’s biggest lobby detailed at length elements of what “the full GAO report said”:
The association then said that by contrast GAO found that: “There are no data available to assess the health effects of the rule” (see Table 2, page 26) and that “Motor carriers and drivers reported no noticeable positive health effects from the rule.” (see Table 2, page 26)
Also, per ATA, with respect to its prior field study, GAO said that: "These shortcomings leave the agency open to criticism over the integrity of the study and invite skepticism about the results.” (see page 42)
“Not only did FMCSA’s field study shortcomings invite criticism,” said Osiecki, “so too does the agency’s attempt to spin the GAO findings. The public must have trust in its government. Unfortunately, FMCSA’s continued spin does not invite that trust.”
But the Trucking Alliance, a coalition of trucking businesses that lobbies for truck-driver safety, views FMCSA’s take on the report in a much different light.
“The GAO did an exhaustive review of the hours of service study and the Alliance has no reason to question the GAO findings or the FMCSA statement in support of the GAO findings," Lane Kidd, Managing Director of the Alliance told HDT. He added that, “The Alliance no longer comments on ATA policies."