Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Statistical Anomalies in SMS/Fatigued Driving

by Henry E. Seaton

Fatigued driving (HOS) is highlighted by the FMCSA as a stand alone BASIC and the threshold for being labeled as deficient is the 65 percentile. In other words, if a carrier is in the bottom 35% of its peer group based upon a weighted points scheme, the carrier will be labeled as deficient in this area and if CSA 2010 data is prematurely released to the public, that carrier will be barred from use by steamship lines, shippers and brokers who feel compelled to use CSA 2010 data for fear of vicarious liability.

In an excellent article entitled, “Trust but Verify” Aaron Huff in the September issue of CCJ opined that the on-board recording device represents a technological gain for the industry. Included was the conclusion that carriers who convert to electronic logs before CSA 2010 goes live have the rare opportunity to reduce their total violations in the fatigued category BASIC by 50%.

An examination of the attached chart demonstrates how this is possible and how little a 50 percentile drop may actually have to do with fatigued driving. Clearly, the biggest source of violations classified as “fatigue related” are actually paperwork violations pertaining to general form and manner of logs and failure of a driver to record current duty status. When coupled with failure to maintain a log, these 3 paperwork violations account for 71% of the total violations in the fatigue BASIC area.

This means that drivers who fill out paper logs based on the numbers are susceptible to receive over three times more fatigued driving violations than those who log electronically.

This obvious discrepancy does not disappear when the CSA 2010 point valuation criteria is applied. For rating purposes, each violation in a category is weighted, points are assigned and total points accumulated are compared based upon the number of inspections conducted with all peer grouped carriers including both those who log manually and electronically. Based upon the number of violations times the severity rating, paperwork violations account for 122.98 points, far more than are assigned to carriers found guilty of exceeding the hours of service under the 11 and 14 hour rules combined (76.65).

The 50 point differential in percentile ranking enjoyed by carriers with electronic logs may have some correlation to safety but the frequency and severity attached to paperwork violations severely skews the percentile ranking as to make any peer group including both paper and electronic loggers statistically invalid as a measure of fatigue.

In sum, the electronic logging system is certainly to be encouraged for a whole lot of reasons but any system which assigns more total points to paperwork violations (which only paper loggers incur) than it does to actual violations of the hours of service regulations cannot compare apples to oranges and conclude that one is deficient, marginal or not safe to eat.

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