Driver issuesNewsTrucking Regulation

First step taken on hours-of-service rollback?

FMCSA, safety groups seek suspension of HOS lawsuit

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has asked an appeals court to suspend a lawsuit in what could be the first step toward a wholesale review by the agency of its own hours-of-service rules.

In a filing Thursday with the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, attorneys for FMCSA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) pointed out that with the Biden administration taking over, there is now new leadership at FMCSA.

“To allow the new agency officials sufficient time to become familiar with the issues and determine how they wish to proceed, respondents respectfully move to place this appeal in abeyance for 60 days,” the filing states.

The four petitioners filing the lawsuit – International Brotherhood of Teamsters, along with safety groups Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and Parents Against Tired Truckers – consented to the abeyance. Their petition, filed just weeks before the HOS changes went into effect on Sept. 29, asked that the upper court vacate the new rules, contending that the changes will increase driver fatigue and reduce safety.

Assuming the court grants the abeyance, during the next two months Biden’s FMCSA, headed now by Acting Administrator Meera Joshi and under the direction of DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg, could decide that FMCSA will not defend the lawsuit and issue a new petition – which could lead to an eventual rollback of the current rules, according to a source familiar with the lawsuit.

Based on responses to lawmakers during questioning at his confirmation hearing, Buttigieg could be open to such a change.

“I’d want to look more into some of the specific case law that you’re discussing, but certainly recognizing the importance of consistency and predictability,” Buttigieg said when asked about federal preemption of HOS regulations in the case of meal and rest breaks. “The key of course is squaring that with the fundamental mission of safety.”

Major trucking groups, which had supported the years-long rulemaking process that led to the more flexible rules, have been bracing for a potential change in course with the new administration.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which intervened in the lawsuit in favor of keeping the new rules in place, stated in their petition that changes “have significantly and positively impacted the interests of OOIDA’s members. OOIDA members would be impacted directly by an order granting the relief petitioners seek in this challenge.”

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  1. Aa people have said, get rid of the 14 hour clock. Sitting on a dock at Walgreens in Jupiter, Florida for 11 hours kills the plan for the next day’s load. Nobody needs to sit for 10 fckng hours and on top of that not be able to take a rest break during the day without loosing time is ridiculous. You really have to be quite the educated dumbäss to think putting a time limit on this kind of industry improves safety. Its a job not a sport or competition. Every problem I’ve had to date including falling asleep at the wheel is a direct result of being forced to compete with the goddämn clock. So Fck the fmcsa, and all you government fâggits. I’ll purposely rear end you into a fckng coma if i know im behind you. Fck trucking i can do other sh!t.

  2. I think it would be prudent to have input on hours of service from the actual people doing the work rather than activist groups, lawyers, and hack politicians that want to manage the lives of others.

    As a driver, I found that flexibility in when I was required to rest allowed me to take a break during the day when I couldn’t sleep for a long period, then work a few more hours and get a good nights sleep, back to work refreshed in the morning as opposed to rules stating I have to take time off in the middle of the day then try to drive all night.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.