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Private Links: Dissent and Obstructionism Won’t Make Safer Roads

A year ago in the PMTC newsletter, NewsBriefs, I discussed the effort that industry and government had expended to reach an agreement that satisfied regulators, addressed available science with regard to fatigue, and considered the industry's need...


A year ago in the PMTC newsletter, NewsBriefs, I discussed the effort that industry and government had expended to reach an agreement that satisfied regulators, addressed available science with regard to fatigue, and considered the industry’s need for productivity in developing the new Canadian hours of service proposals.

At that time some special interests groups appeared to be out to de-rail (if you’ll excuse the expression) the proposals by attacking them at every opportunity.

Well, it appears this is not a uniquely Canadian phenomenon.

FMCSA was dealt a setback by the courts in July after a group called Public Citizen battled against the newly implemented U.S. hours of service regime.

The federal court invalidated the revised regulations and tasked the agency with reviewing driver health consequences and other issues raised by the Public Citizen group.

FMCSA had 45 days to respond, a timeframe could be extended a little depending on the dates of official rulings.

FMCSA then filed a request with the courts to stay implementation of the July ruling while the agency addresses the court’s concerns.

On Sept. 13, Public Citizen filed its opposition to the agency’s request.

They wanted the court decision to go into effect immediately, without allowing FMCSA time to complete remedial rulemaking. This could have had the effect of canceling the new hours of service rules and reverting to those that were in effect prior to Jan. 4, 2004.

Others felt the prospects were not that clear, and that the agency would need to impose an amended rule under its emergency rulemaking authority.

At that time there was a good deal of confusion in the air.

Public Citizen’s opposition to FMCSA’s request for time to address the court’s directives appeared to us to be nothing more than obstructionism, the same type we faced in Canada from similar anti-trucking groups. In the interests of getting it right, we felt that the agency should be given a reasonable period of time to respond to the court’s directives.

In late September, Congress approved a bill that included an extension of the new regulations. That bill extends the January 2004 rules until Sept. 30, 2005, or until the FMCSA devises a replacement rule, whichever comes first. The U.S. President needs to sign off on the bill but that is expected momentarily.

The provision reads as follows:

“The hours of service regulations applicable to property-carrying commercial drivers contained in the Final Rule of April 28, 2003 (68 Fed. Reg. 22456-22517) as amended on September 30, 2003 (68 Fed. Reg. 56208-56212) and made applicable to such drivers on January 4, 2004 shall be in effect until the earlier of (1) the effective date of a new final rule addressing the issues raised by the July 16, 2004 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Public Citizen et al. v. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (No. 03-1165); or (2) September 30, 2005.”

This provision eliminates the need for the court of appeals to rule on the motion for a stay of the July 16 decision as filed by the FMCSA. As soon as the President signs the highway bill extension the HOS provision will become effective, and the new HOS rules will remain in effect while the FMCSA conducts its rulemaking to address the issues raised by the court.

This is a reasonable way to handle concerns with the new hours of service regulations – give the agency time to address the issues raised by the courts.

If Public Citizen’s goal is safer highways as they claim, they should start to work with the industry and the agency, not simply try to obstruct the process.

– The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada is the only national association dedicated to the private trucking community. This column presents opinions on trucking issues from the perspective of private carriers. Comments can be addressed to trucks@pmtc.ca


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