The American Trucking Associations is raising the ante in its challenge to the science behind proposed new truck driver hours of service rules with a statement that studies linking length of sleep time and untimely death were "misapplied."
The ATA obtained a statement from a key sleep researcher claiming the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was wrong to use his 2007 study to conclude more sleep could generate roughly $690 million in health benefits for drivers.
"The current evidence … do not support the conclusions of the FMCSA that a small increase in sleep duration of a few minutes … is likely to decrease the mortality risks of individual or groups," said sleep researcher Francesco P. Cappuccio.
The trucking group has attacked the scientific underpinnings and estimated health and safety benefits of the FMCSA's proposed driver hours rule in what is widely seen as the groundwork for a potential legal challenge of a final rule later this year.
The agency is proposing to cut the amount of time truckers can work each day from 14 hours to 13 and may drop its daily driving limit from 11 hours to 10 hours. Changes to a weekly restart provision would chop more time from trucking's clock.
The ATA has already accused the agency of misapplying data to elevate driver fatigue as a cause of truck accidents, giving more weight to single-vehicle crashes and treating any crash in which fatigue is a factor as a fatigue-caused crash.
The association commissioned a review of the proposed rule by Edgeworth Economics, which reported the FMCSA used "questionable logic, inadequate data and sloppy math" to justify shortening the hours truck drivers can work per day.
Cappuccio, a professor at England's Warwick Medical School, and Jane Ferrie published a study in 2007 investigating the linkage between sleep duration and change and various causes of death, including cardiovascular disease.
In an analysis of the FMCSA proposal requested by ATA, Cappuccio said his data do not support a change in mortality risk among those getting six to eight hours of sleep a night, or a significant benefit from gaining short increments of sleep.
In addition, shortening truck driver work hours alone won't necessarily lead to more sleep, said Cappuccio. "This assumption is unsupported," he said.
"Guaranteeing sufficient sleep time to a number of occupational groups is a scientifically proven concept to improve safety," he said. "However, it is premature to use the mortality outcome to support policy changes in occupational groups."
The FMCSA released its proposed hours of service rule Dec. 29, and is accepting comments through March 4. Under a legal settlement with the Teamsters union and Public Citizen, the agency is obligated to issue a final rule by July 26.
-- Contact William B. Cassidy at email@example.com.