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BREAKING NEWS: US Court rejects 11-hour driving limit in HOS rule

Posted: August 1, 2014

WASHINGTON – The 11-hour daily driving time and the 34-hour restart provisions of the U.S. federal hours-of-service regulation have been tossed out by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The rest of the rule, which was first enacted in 2004 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), remains unchanged, including the provision requiring on-duty time capped at 14 consecutive hours.

The court’s decision will not take affect for at least 52 days. At that point, daily driving could very likely be scaled back to 10 hours.

The three-judge panel said the FMCSA “failed to give interested parties an opportunity to comment on the methodology of the crash-risk model that the agency used to justify an increase in the maximum number of daily and weekly hours that truck drivers may drive and work.”

The FMCSA and the ATA are now appealing for a stay
in the current rules of 11 driving hours and a 34 hour restart.

The court also faulted the agency’s model for failing to deal with the added cumulative fatigue that arguably would be caused by the 34-hour restart.
This is the second time this court has considered a challenge to the FMCSA’s attempt to modify its hours-of-service regulations.

The FMCSA was told by U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in the summer of 2004 to rewrite its rule “because the government failed to consider the health of drivers.”

A year later — much to the chagrin of special-interest group Public Citizen, the Teamsters, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) –all of whom were involved in first challenging the legality of original 2004 regulation — the FMCSA repackaged a version of the rule with modifications only to the split-sleeper berth provision. Most of the rule was left intact, but drivers at that point were required to take eight consecutive hours off in the sleeper rather than split the time off into two periods of the driver’s choosing.

In this split decision, the court sided with Public Citizen’s challenge on daily driving time, but rejected OOIDA’s appeal to toughen up the sleeper berth exception.

“We are analyzing the decision issued today to understand the court’s findings as well as determine the agency’s next steps to prevent driver fatigue, ensure safe and efficient motor carrier operations and save lives,” said the FMCSA in a statement. “This decision does not go into effect until September 14, unless the court orders otherwise.”

The FMCSA has now has 45 days to petition for reconsideration.

According to Transport Topics, the official publication of the American Trucking Associations, ATA will seek a stay of the decision in an effort to allow FMCSA to address the ruling before it goes into effect.

“This is the second time that a unanimous panel … has found that the agency failed to justify the rule’s increases in daily and weekly driving and working hours,” said Bonnie Robin-Vergeer, the Public Citizen lawyer who argued the case. “Remarkably, in 2003 and again in 2005, the agency responded by issuing regulations that dramatically increased daily and weekly driving and working hours. The 2005 rule, like the 2003 rule before it, runs afoul of every one of these congressional mandates.”

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