ATA says FMCSA misused researcher’s work to back HOS changes

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A researcher who worked on the scientific studies that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration used to support its proposed changes to the current hours-of-service rules says the agency misapplied those studies’ findings, according to the American Trucking Associations.

ATA says 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 used by the agency 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.

According to ATA, Cappuccio states FMCSA misused his sleep research and concluded that the agency 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.”

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

Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer, says his group “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. 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.”

FMCSA “looks forward to receiving all public comments and addressing them in the final rule,” says agency spokeswoman Candice Tolliver.

Cappuccio’s assessment is the latest attempt by ATA to discredit FMCSA’s Dec. 23 hours-of-service proposal. ATA last month released an independent review of FMCSA’s hours-of-service Regulatory Impact Analysis that found the agency overstated the proposal’s benefits. The Edgeworth Economics review argued that while FMCSA states its proposal would result in up to $380 million in annual benefits, the proposal actually would result in net costs, and not benefits, of about $320 million a year.

According to the study, FMCSA made unreasonable assumptions about the safety of the trucking industry by sampling only carriers it subjected to a compliance review, generally for not following federal safety rules; and in formulating its proposal, FMCSA used crash data collected before the current rules went into effect, ignoring their positive safety impact on the industry.

Just before a listening session last month concerning its hours-of-service proposal, FMCSA placed three additional documents in the public docket concerning the cumulative fatigue function, coefficient estimates and an explanation of coefficient names as requested by ATA; and an Excel spreadsheet containing data using the formula in the HOS Regulatory Evaluation to link the hours worked in the previous week to fatigue the following week. The agency also made a number of clerical corrections to the HOS proposed rule.