FMCSA considers next step in light of HOS court decision

WASHINGTON, (July 19, 2004) — The American Trucking Associations says there will be no immediate problems as a result of Friday’s U.S. Court of Appeals ruling vacating the new federal hours of service regulation for professional truck drivers.

The HOS regulation was sent back for amendment to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which now has 45 days to decide whether to appeal the decision, go back to the previous rules, or seek approval to stay with the current ones until they can be rewritten. For, now, the current rules remain in effect, and the FMCSA is advising carriers, and law enforcement officials to continue to abide by them.

ATA said in its statement that it continues to endorse the current rules as they are, adding that “switching back and forth between the old and new rules would be confusing to the point of adversely affecting highway safety.”

The court sided with the lobby group Public Citizen’s argument that the regulations — which took effect on Jan. 4, 2004 — failed to consider the impact on the health of drivers. It called the rule “arbitrary and capricious,” adding that FMCSA failed to comply with a statute requiring the agency to consider the impact of the rule on “the physical condition of the operators,” not simply the impact of driver health in respect to commercial motor vehicle safety.

While the court had some sharp criticism for several aspects of the rule — including increasing the maximum driving time from 10 to 11 hours; the sleeper berth provision; the 34-hour “restart” provision; and the lack of so-called “black boxes” — it stated the health issue alone was enough to throw out the regulation entirely.

However, it did suggest that while the FMCSA is reviewing the court decision, it addresses those additional issues as well to avoid further legal action.

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