Report: problems emerge with FMCSA safety study

Nearly one year ago, new hours of service regulations went into effect. These regulations — which require, among other things, truck drivers to take breaks at specific points in their shifts and to take more time off between shifts — proved to be extremely controversial. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, along with some in the trucking industry, argued that these new regulations were needed to prevent truck accidents caused by fatigue. Opponents of the new rules argued that they would cause truckers and trucking companies significant financial hardship.

When these new rules went into effect, Congress required the FMCSA to examine whether these new hours of service rules were effective in preventing accidents. Earlier this year, the agency announced the findings of the study, which determined that the rules have, indeed, made U.S. highways safer for everyone. Recently, the American Transportation Research Institute announced that it had completed its own analysis of the FMCSA study. According to the ATRI, the FMCSA study was significantly flawed.

Perhaps the most significant criticism of the FMCSA study was that it did not include data from a representative sample of U.S. truck drivers. According to ATRI, the FMCSA study included an average of just under 12 days' data for only 106 truck drivers. The ATRI also found further flaws with the way in which the FMCSA study was designed and how the agency interpreted the data it collected.

It is difficult to know how seriously one should take the ATRI analysis. The ATRI is associated with the American Trucking Association — a trucking industry group that offered vocal opposition to the enactment of the new hours of service rules. For its part, the ATA has said that ATRI reached its conclusions about the FMCSA study independently.

What is clear is that fatigue is a significant contributing factor in many truck accidents throughout the U.S. The reality is that it is going to be difficult to determine conclusively whether the FMCSA's new rules have been effective after they have been in place for less than one year. In the meantime, requiring truck drivers to take regular breaks and to spend more time off duty seems like a prudent step.

No matter the cause, injuries resulting from an accident caused by a commercial truck can be serious. A personal injury attorney can provide you with essential information about your rights and how to proceed with a claim.