It's pretty safe to say that no one is happy with the Hours of Service proposal. Neither side likes the fact that FMCSA "waffled" on the driving hours. Reducing driving hours has been a key concern of Public Citizen, the group that's been the main force behind the court challenges.
The trucking industry is upset that FMCSA dismissed the only study done to date on the relationship between driving hours and accidents. The study, conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), revealed that it's the first hour, not the 11th, that's the most likely to involve a safety-critical event (accident or near accident). FMCSA was concerned that there were too few drivers studied and the fact that they knew they were being observed could have skewed the results.
Another point of contention is the financial impact the proposed rule will have. A decrease in work hours will increase the industry's cost of doing business. FMCSA feels that this increase will be more than offset by savings derived from improved driver health and fewer fatigue related accidents. To arrive at their conclusions FMCSA used a 13% fatigue related accident rate. This percentage was arrived at by using statistics from the Large Truck Crash Causation Study. However, this study did not assign a cause for the accidents studied; it only acknowledged that a particular factor was present. The 13% rate is fully 6 percentage points higher than the FMCSA has used in the past when referring to the same Large Truck Crash Causation Study.
They have also assumed that drivers who work less will make better personal health decisions. Many observers feel that achieving a healthier lifestyle is influenced more by personal choice than other external influences. Finally, the financial outcome depends on how much of a sleep increase drivers will achieve under the new regulations. To reach the highest payback, FMCSA has assumed that drivers currently get a limited amount of sleep and that under the new regulations they will transition to a high level of sleep. In an industry as varied as trucking, broad generalities just don't hold up. Many drivers report that with the 14 hour cap on duty time, followed by 10 hours off duty, they're far more rested than they were under the previous 15 hour workday followed by just 8 hours off.
At this point, the only action available to both parties is to send their comments to FMCSA for consideration. It's likely that the number of comments received on this rule could be record breaking. It's also possible that some of the industry comments could become the basis for a legal challenge once the Final Rule is published. The VTTI study and the assumptions used to develop the financial benefits are two key areas mentioned by the ATA. One effect not discussed in the NPRM is the effect of increasing the number of trucks on the road will have on safety and accidents.