New data showing a lower rate of truck-involved accident deaths indicate more restrictive hours of service rules for truck drivers are unnecessary, the American Trucking Associations says.
The ATA on Wednesday renewed its call for the Department of Transportation to drop its proposed hours of service rules, pointing to a 14.1 percent drop in the truck-related fatality rate in 2009.
The rate of fatalities in truck crashes fell to 1.17 per million miles traveled in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Highway Administration.
Video: Toll's Coutts on HOS
The overall traffic fatality rate fell to 1.13 per million miles traveled in 2009, an 11.5 percent decline. Vehicle mileage climbed slightly in the past two years: 0.2 percent in 2009 and 0.7 percent in 2010.
Figures released for 2010 show the lowest overall traffic fatality rate since 1949 - 1.09 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Truck-related fatality figures are not available for last year.
The number of people killed in large truck crashes dropped 26 percent in 2009 to 503, while the number of injuries in those accidents also dropped 26 percent to 17,000, DOT's data revealed.
The drop in truck-related crash deaths shows the current hours of service rules, which permit truckers to drive up to 11 hours a day, are working, said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.
"Since FMCSA began its effort to revise these rules, we have said the current rules are working. The Obama Administration's own data now supports that belief," ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said.
"Since the agency first changed the hours rules in 2004, the truck-involved fatality rate has dropped by 36 percent -- nearly twice as fast as the overall fatality rate on our highways," he said.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in December proposed rules that would cut at least one hour from a driver's work day, requiring all work to be completed in 13 hours rather than 14.
The agency is also considering dropping the maximum driving time from 11 hours to 10 hours, and adjusting the 34-hour "restart" between weeks to require two complete nights of off-duty rest.
ATA and other trucking and shipping groups oppose those changes, which they claim would cost trucking more than $2 billion, and urge the FMCSA to better enforce its current rules.
"FMCSA should move forward with its proposed requirement for electronic logs (to be used by all interstate truck drivers) and focus on ensuring all carriers follow the rules," Graves said.
Not all of the news from the road was good. Although overall accident fatalities declined 3 percent in 2010, last year's improvement was the smallest in recent years, and wasn't uniform across the country.
While admitting that fatalities in crashes involving large trucks dropped significantly from 2005 to 2009, the FMCSA's mandate is to reduce those fatalities even further, Administrator Anne Ferro said.
"We owe it to the public to establish strong safety performance measures," Ferro said after an FMCSA hearing on hours of service. "We're working toward a continued dramatic reduction in fatal crashes."