Court strikes down trucking hours rule
A federal appeals court has struck down current regulations on the number of hours truckers can work over a consecutive period in any week.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit said the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had not properly explained the reasons for the hours of service rules, which were issued in August 2005.
Public Citizen, the advocacy group, hailed the decision as a victory saying the court had affirmed its contention that the current rules “could put motorists at risk.”
The American Trucking Associations has disputed that.
“The existing rules have proven to be a significant improvement over the old rules in terms of reducing driver fatigue and related incidents,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “Motor carrier experience and FMCSA data dramatically illustrate this. ATA plans to provide additional real-world documentation of the effectiveness of the current rules.”
The ATA said, “From the trucking industry’s standpoint, the good news in the decision is that the flaws that the court found were procedural in nature and can be corrected by the agency.”
The trucking group said it would “seek a stay from the court that would allow those provisions to stay in place pending the agency’s re-evaluation of them” and “work to provide support to the agency for re-adoption of the 11-hour daily drive time and 34-hour restart.”
The ATA noted that the court’s decision will not become effective for at least 52 days, which means that the 11-hour limit and 34-hour restart stay in place for at least that time frame.
Public Citizen had challenged two provisions of the 2005 rule:
* Allowing truck drivers to drive for 11 consecutive hours before taking rest time, up from the old rule of 10 hours.
* Allowing drivers to “restart” their weekly tally of hours after they had taken a 34-hour break.
Public Citizen said the 34-hour restart allowed truckers to drive 77 hours in seven days or 88 hours in eight days — a more than 25 percent increase over the pre-2003 rules. It also said on-duty hours during which truckers may drive also climbed, so that a driver working 14-hour shifts under the new rules can now work as many as 84 hours in seven days or 98 hours in eight days — the latter a 40 percent increase over the old limits.
But the ATA said the current rules “promotes a regular work-rest cycle for truck drivers and a schedule that is closer to a 24-hour circadian rhythm. The 11th hour of driving time safely provides flexibility for trucking operations without increasing driver fatigue. The 34-hour restart gives drivers much greater flexibility to manage their time, relieving stress and allowing more time at home.”
The National Industrial Transportation League said it would monitor the ruling and subsequent actions, saying it would “have far-reaching effects on the movement of freight.”
The hours of service rules have been modified and challenged in court several times in recent years. A new rule was issued by the FMCSA in April 2003, then struck down in 2004 and then modified in 2005 before being struck down Tuesday.
NIT League Executive Vice President Peter Gatti noted that the group has opposed changing the rules again, feeling that forcing businesses to readjust yet again would create hardships for shippers.