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US hours-of-service rules still in limbo

ARLINGTON, Va. - The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has made a strong case for retaining the current US hours-of-service regulations despite a recent court ruling that threatens two key provisio...

ARLINGTON, Va. – The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has made a strong case for retaining the current US hours-of-service regulations despite a recent court ruling that threatens two key provisions of the rules.

The 11-hour daily driving limit and the 34-hour restart provision were both deemed to be unjustified according to a ruling in the US Court of Appeals. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) did not properly justify the two key provisions, according to the ruling. The ATA has asked the FMCSA to retain the two rules in question, to avoid “widespread disruption in the industry and the supply chain.” Failing that, it has asked FMCSA to at the very least allow for an eight-month stay to the potential overhaul.

ATA notes that the Court ruling did not indicate that the two rules were unsafe, only that proper procedure was not followed in developing the rules. The association points out that while lobby groups opposed to the rules fixate on the additional hour of driving time permitted under the current rules, they ignore the fact that the daily rest periods were increased from eight hours to 10 hours and on-duty time was reduced from 15 hours per day to 14 hours.

ATA filed a petition that said the trucking industry will not be able to adapt to immediate changes in the daily driving limit and restart provisions without shouldering a significant cost and impact on operations.

The association also pointed out that truck fatalities continued to decline in 2006, demonstrating that the current rules are working. The 4.7% decline in truck fatalities in 2006 was the largest drop in 14 years, according to the ATA.

The petition asked the FMCSA to publish an Interim Final Rule by Sept. 14 to re-adopt the 11-hour driving limit and 34-hour restart; within 60 days after that, publish a proposed rulemaking that addresses the issues identified by the court; and publish a final rule within 180 days of the notice of proposed rulemaking’s publication.

“The trucking industry and its customers could not instantaneously shift to an hours-of-service regime with a different daily driving limit and without the 34-hour restart. Rather, such a conversion would require months of preparation,” the ATA pointed out in a motion to the US Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia.

The ATA expressed concerns that carriers would have to re-train drivers and operations personnel, re-print logs and forms, update recording software and compensate for lost productivity.

Meanwhile, the lobby group says that eliminating the two provisions in question will wipe out the only provisions that help offset productivity losses incurred under other parts of the HoS regulations (such as the increase in mandatory off-duty time and the decrease of the maximum on-duty time).

ATA hopes that an eight-month stay will provide FMCSA with enough time to properly prove the reasoning behind the controversial provisions.

The Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association is taking the opportunity to once again push for changes to the sleeper berth provision and the prohibition on drivers from stopping the 14-hour clock to take short rest breaks and naps. OOIDA’s complaints on the two HoS provisions were previously ignored by the Court of Appeals. The association contended that FMCSA slipped the changes into the regulations without properly soliciting driver feedback.

“Truckers were blind-sided by the changes,” said OOIDA director of regulatory affairs, Rick Craig. “It wasn’t clear what the public was supposed to comment on, and so it was no wonder there were no posted objections on the docket until after the final rule was published.”

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Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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