Ferro defends HOS changes, discounts productivity impact

FerroAs the Senate Appropriations committee considers measures to suspend and study changes to hours-of-service, Administrator Ann Ferro on Tuesday defended FMCSA’s implementation of the rule before a Senate Commerce transportation subcommittee working on the next highway bill.

Asked about the impact of the HOS change on economic productivity and health, Ferro explained that the results are in line with the “rigorous” and “unprecedented” analysis used to develop the rule, which included an estimated $500 million cost to trucking.

“Yes, there has been an economic impact on the industry. We certainly recognized that that would happen,” she said. “The majority of the impact is on the long-haul, over-the-road, irregular route driver.”

As for the safety benefits, Ferro added that the agency did not have recent crash data, “but we certainly do know that it’s having an impact.”

Ferro also cited the importance of using electronic logs in new studies on the impact of the HOS rule going forward.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, however, questioned whether the restart rule puts more trucks on the road during congested daytime hours – and was therefore less safe.

“We have not seen that,” Ferro replied, noting that the agency would be collecting data on the matter. “It is an incremental impact and it is far outweighed by the improved driver safety.”

Still, Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican, said she was “shocked” by reports she hears from businesses about the rule – “and not just long-haul businesses.”

“You’re gathering data, but what I’m hearing from companies both large and small is that they are going to have to drive more during the day and put more trucks on the road,” Ayotte said. “So by the time we have this data, instead of having done the analysis in advance, we have a situation where we’re not having the impact on safety and we’re having a negative impact on the economy.”

Ferro’s formal testimony, in which she outlines the agency’s safety efforts under MAP-21 – the current highway funding program – as well initiatives from the proposed Obama administration’s GROW AMERICA Act, is here.