A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued this week found fault with some of the research methods used by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to develop its revisions to hours of service (HOS) regulations back in 2011 – though the agency did conclude the rule changes are functioning as FMCSA intended.
Congress requested that the GAO review the FMCSA’s January 2014 study regarding the “efficacy” HOS changes and found that while that study did follow “generally accepted research standards,” it did not completely meet several, such as reporting limitations and linking the conclusions to the results.
“For example, by not adhering to these standards, FMCSA's conclusion in the study about the extent to which crash risk is reduced by the HOS rule may be overstated,” GAO said.
The agency also found that FMCSA has not adopted guidance on the most appropriate methods for designing, analyzing, and reporting the results of scientific research.
“Without such guidance, FMCSA may be at risk for excluding critical elements in research it undertakes to evaluate the safety of its rules, leaving itself open to criticism,” the report noted.
Yet GAO did stress that its analysis of the FMCSA’s expectation for work schedule changes for certain long-haul drivers did hold true.
“GAO's analysis of a limited sample of available data provides some insight into the rule's effects and the extent to which they aligned with FMCSA's assumptions and estimates,” the agency noted.
“For example, some drivers at a sample of 16 for-hire carriers who worked the longest hours (over 65 hours per work week) reduced their work hours after the rule went into effect, a finding consistent with FMCSA's assumptions that drivers working over 65 hours were more likely to be affected,” it said.
However, GAO's analysis added that drivers who worked less than 65 hours per work week also changed their schedules after the rule went into effect – a result not anticipated by FMCSA.
Yet U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx concluded in a statement this afternoon that the GAO’s report overall “reinforces our belief” that that the HOS modifications are keeping people safe on the roads.
“This GAO report provides further evidence that the changes FMCSA made to the HOS rules improve highway safety by saving lives and lowering the risk of driver fatigue,” he added in a statement. “We value the GAO’s independent review and will use their recommendations to further strengthen our Department’s research to ensure that we have the best data available to keep our roads safe.”