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July 30, 2012 8:00 AM, EDT

Editorial: Keep HOS Working

This Editorial appears in the July 30 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

American Trucking Associations has filed suit against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s latest attempt to modify the hours-of-service rule because it believes it had no other way to prevent a serious mistake on the part of the very agency that is charged with improving safety by and for the motor carrier industry.

Despite the excellent track record of the 2004 HOS revision, FMCSA has caved in to outside pressure to modify the rule in ways we believe will reduce highway safety, not enhance it.

The changes the agency has proposed to the restart provision and the off-duty break provision are not justified by science or history.

ATA believes that the agency purposely put forth misleading data in its attempt to show — as is required by law — that the proposed changes would have more economic gain than cost for those affected by them.

But, as ATA stated in its filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on July 24, “That ‘analysis’ . . . is a sham. FMCSA stacked the deck in favor of its preferred outcome by basing its cost-benefit calculations on a host of transparently unjustifiable assumptions. FMCSA therefore cannot justify the 2011 final rule [which contained the changes] on the ground that it has net benefits.”

ATA has been firmly supportive of the 2004 HOS rule, because it works.

As ATA President Bill Graves said when the suit was filed, the federation “has contended that the rules that have been in place since 2004 have been working and have been a major contributing factor in the reduction in truck-involved crashes and fatalities.”

Graves said FMCSA has “systematically, and without regard for science or logic, distorted the available data in order to fit it in to a predetermined and arbitrary outcome.”

Had the agency not fiddled with the data, there would have been no way that it could have passed the cost-benefit analysis, and thus would not have been able to propose the changes.

ATA believes that FMCSA’s “purported justifications contradict the evidence in the administrative record and require the agency to ignore, without any supporting basis, numerous positions it previously adopted.”

The agency now has until Sept. 24 to answer to ATA’s brief.

We are asking the court to fix this improper action by FMCSA, and pronto.