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Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics; Sleeper-Berth Study Commissioned

Written by Peter Friberg.

Former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once reportedly said, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Actually though, I love statistics. They are facts. Unfortunately, statistics can often be easily manipulated. So it’s with a certain untrusting feeling that I applaud the FMCSA as they commission Virginia Tech University and Washington State University to combine on a sleeper-berth study to determine if truck drivers can be just as effective and just as safe when they split their 10 hours of rest into smaller chunks rather than logging all 10 consecutively.

“[The] FMCSA says it hopes to recruit at least 200 truckers to participate, with the goal being to attract long-haul drivers from large, medium and small carriers as the research subjects,” according to the Commercial Carrier Journal (CCJ).

Interestingly, CCJ points out that the FMCSA previously provided an exemption to McKee Foods that allows their drivers to split their 10 hour off-duty rest breaks into 3/7, 4/6, or 5/5 breaks. At that time, the FMCSA said that, “…drivers who split their sleep showed no greater levels of fatigue or unsafe driving instances than those who did not split sleep.”

A few decades ago a baseball team hired a statistical researcher to determine if fans would buy more tickets based on some decision they were considering. When the statistical evidence showed that the fans would not respond as the owners wanted the response was, “We need to bury these results.” They weren’t researching with the intent to follow the statistical conclusions, they were researching with the hopes that the data would support their idea. When it did not, they didn’t change their decision they just wanted to hide the data.

Which leads us back to Disraeli’s famous quote. I trust that Virginia Tech and Washington State researchers will do their best work, but I fear that the results may be skewed to a previously held conclusion by the FMCSA.

Thanks for reading.

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