Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen, and other safety groups have sued the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) again for their regulations governing truck driver’s hours of service (HOS).
Hours of Service Rules
The FMCSA is responsible for the safe operation of trucks on the nation’s highways and works to prevent truck accidents. Its statutory mandate states: “Safety as Highest Priority…the [FMCSA] shall consider the assignment and maintenance of safety as the highest priority.”
Congress has instructed them to devise regulations to achieve that goal. One set of regulations controls the number of hours a truck driver may drive, including the total hours they may drive in one day, and the number over a set period of time, before they have to have a “restart” period, during which they must rest.
The FMCSA issued the original HOS rules in 2003, which made changes to the old Interstate Commerce Commission rules dating from the 1960s.
These rules increased the number of hours a driver could drive and prompted a lawsuit from safety organizations involving issues of truck driver health, the increase in maximum driving time from 10 to 11 consecutive hours-per-shift, the sleeper berth exception, electronic on-board recorders (EOBRS), the 34-hour restart, and the 24-hour circadian rhythm.
FMCSA Process “Troubling”
The court found the 2003 rule arbitrary and capricious because FMCSA completely failed to consider its impact on driver health, as required by statute. The court noted other deficiencies in the FMCSA’s process, which they found “troubling” and “problematic.”
The Court found that FMCSA did “not even acknowledge, much less justify, that the [34-hour restart] … dramatically increases the maximum permissible hours drivers may work each week.”
Try, Try Again
In 2005 and 2007, the FCMSA issued a revised rulemaking that changed very little, and prompted another round of litigation, with safety organizations attacking the 11-hour daily driving limit and the 34-hour restart provision of the 2005 rule.
The Court of Appeals again threw out the 11-hour daily driving limit and the 34-hour restart provision as structurally defective. The FMCSA went back for a third try, and issued a final rule making in December of 2011.
That rule is currently involved with litigation from both safety organizations like Public Citizen and The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHSA) who argue the “rule fails to adequately address truck driver fatigue and puts the public’s safety at risk,” said Henry Jasny of the AHSA.
At the same time, the American Truckers Associations (ATA) has also attacked the new regulations, because they are unhappy over the revision of the 34-hour rule.