DOT got ‘marching orders’ to overhaul HOS: Former boss

WASHINGTON –Congress will have to step in to put an end to the never-ending cycle of hours of service litigation and rewrites says the man who used to run the agency responsible for overseeing the rules.

According to a report on, former Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator John Hill told members of the National Private Truck Council that "the hours of service rule is something that is going to be litigated for a long time."

Hill — now consulting with trucking companies as principle of The Hill Group — was involved in the hours of service saga during the mid-2000s.

Under his watch, he said, the agency could not justify the 10-hour driving time and changes to the 34-hour restart that it is proposing now.

So, how is the agency justifying its reversal today?

In January 2009, Hill explained, the value of a human life at the DOT changed from $3 million to $6 million. By doubling that value, the DOT was able to make the cost vs. benefits numbers work.

"If you go through this proposed rule, you will see a lot of the benefits that accrue to this rule are through driver health related issues," Hill said. "And I think there are some driver health issues in that rule. But I will tell you when I was at the agency, there was very little data correlating the cost to those driver health benefits. I’m sure there have been some improvements in terms of quantifying that data, but still, it’s very scarce. So if the agency moves ahead with the hours of service rule and people bring suit against it, you can be sure they’re going to go after the cost-benefit part of it."

His experience with the agency has led Hill to the belief that it’s the political powers that be who are pushing the buttons, not the regulatory appointees.

"I can assure you that [current FMCSA administrator] Anne Ferro is getting marching orders," Hill said. "Let me remind you she had been confirmed only one day, when the very next day, the DOT secretary announced an agreement with Public Citizen on a moratorium for the lawsuit and a rewrite of the hours of service rule. She had no input in that. I am sure it is difficult for her to work through this issue because there are people at the White House that are very sympathetic to labor."

Hill said it’s going to take Congressional action by statute to stop the cycle.

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