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Court rejects HOS restart, additional hour of driving

Reprinted from eTrucker.com - July 2007

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on July 24 invalidated two significant pieces of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours-of-service regulations, rejecting the increase of the daily driving limit from 10 hours to 11 and the 34-hour restart option for drivers’ weekly on-duty limits.

In addition, the court’s three-judge panel rejected the petition filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Among other things, OOIDA had objected to changes in use of the sleeper berth to satisfy rest requirements.

FMCSA’s failings in the case may stem from how it formulated the rule, rather than in what the rule contained. A three-judge panel deciding the case for the court concluded that FMCSA “violated the Administrative Procedure Act because it failed to give interested parties an opportunity to comment on the methodology of the crash-risk model that the agency used to justify an increase in the maximum number of daily and weekly hours that truck drivers may drive and work.”

The American Trucking Associations says that because the flaws cited by the court are procedural, they can be corrected by FMCSA. “ATA will work to provide support to the agency for re-adoption of the 11-hour daily drive time and 34-hour restart,” says ATA. “In the meantime, ATA will seek a stay from the court that would allow those provisions to stay in place pending the agency’s re-evaluation of them.”

According to court rules, the decision will not take effect for at least 52 days, ATA says. During the first 45 days, FMCSA can petition for reconsideration.

The FMCSA noted the time factor in its short statement, issued later in the day: “We are analyzing the decision issued today to understand the court’s findings as well as determine the agency’s next steps to prevent driver fatigue, ensure safe and efficient motor carrier operations and save lives. This decision does not go into effect until September 14, unless the court orders otherwise.”

When the appeals court rejected the first revised hours-of-service regulation in July 2004, the Republican-led Congress held the new rules in place for about a year while FMCSA worked on a new version.

After the 2005 rule was announced, FMCSA denied the petitions by OOIDA and Public Citizen for reconsideration. The groups then filed court challenges in 2006, and other trucking and safety advocacy groups filed comments on one side or the other


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