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OOIDA files court challenge against US HOS rule
ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Last year, it was public interest and safety groups that took U.S. regulators to court over new hours-of-service rules. Now, North America's largest independent trucker group says it will challenge the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's latest HOS regulation before a judge. Following the FMCSA's denial of a petition to reconsider two aspects of the new HOS regulations, the Virginia-based Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association plans to appeal the rule in court, reports Land Line magazine, the official publication of OOIDA. The association has vocally opposed the split sleeper-berth provision and its effect on team drivers ever since the re-written rules were published in August 2005 and went into effect Oct. 1, 2005. In fact, it was the first trucking group to formally speak out against the sleeper-berth changes, which requires drivers to take eight consecutive hours off as part of their 10-hour, off-duty time. Under the 2003 rule, FMCSA included a provision that allowed drivers to obtain the necessary 10 off-duty hours by splitting their sleeper berth in two periods of their own choosing, as long as one was a minimum of two hours long.

The new HOS rule's sleeper provision change
In its petition, the OOIDA argued that the split sleeper-berth provision forces team drivers to actually drive longer periods of time that "wear them out." "They prefer being able to switch drivers after much shorter periods of time, which gives them more frequent rest opportunities, and leaves them more refreshed each time they drive," OOIDA's petition stated. In a letter dated Dec. 5, 2005, FMCSA denied the Association's petition for reconsideration of the rules by claiming that the current regs "ensure that drivers can obtain seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep during one sleeper-berth period." According to Land Line, OOIDA is also asking the court to have both periods of the split sleeper-berth provision be off the 14-hour on-duty clock to provide needed flexibility for solo drivers. The Association argued that not stopping the daily on-duty clock for the two-hour off-duty portion of the split sleeper-berth provision "does nothing to alleviate drivers' disincentives to take a break that cuts into available driving time." But OOIDA is also ready to stand behind the other aspects of the new regs because they don't include electronic on-board recorders. OOIDA promised it would be "vigilant" in opposing efforts by other groups to get EOBRs mandated. However, the FMCSA has stated in the past it would revisit the issue of EOBRs in a separate proposal. In September, The Teamsters Union joined such advocate groups as Public Citizen, and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety in filing their own challenge against the new HOS regulations. Some of those groups were responsible for the FMCSA being forced to scrap its first long-awaited HOS rule that took effect in January 2004. In June of that year, a court agreed with the groups that the FMCSA failed to consider "the health of the drivers" when it drafted the 2004 HOS regime, and told the agency to rewrite it. The result -- the new rule published last summer -- didn't seem to please truckers or the groups that the rewrite was supposed to appease. "We are extremely disappointed that the agency basically issued the same HOS rule that was thrown out by the federal court because that version didn't consider the health of the driver," Jim Hoffa, Teamsters general president, said in a press release at the time. "This new rule is almost identical to the current rule and the two additional changes they made -- the sleeper berth modification and the new short haul provision put our drivers at greater risk." -- with files from Land Line magazine
 
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