American Trucking Associations officials criticized the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for rejecting a request to delay implementation of its embattled hours-of-service rule.
In a letter to the agency, ATA General Counsel Prasad Sharma said that rather than deal in good faith with the substance of ATA’s request, FMCSA hid behind an irrelevant, legalistic analysis. While ATA asked merely for the agency to extend the rule’s implementation deadline—a request the agency could grant so long as there is a reasonable basis to do so—FMCSA’s chief counsel instead analyzed the request as though ATA were asking a court for an injunction forcing the agency to delay.
“So rather than giving ATA’s request its natural reading, FMCSA contrived an analysis under an inapplicable test to critique the sufficiency of ATA’s request,” Sharma wrote.
FMCSA’s rejection, he said, will be costly for the industry and for the enforcement community, if the court rejects any of the challenged provisions of the rule.
“Despite a record of adverse decisions in past hours-of-service litigation,” Sharma wrote, “FMCSA is willing to risk wasting significant training resources – some of it taxpayer money used to train both agency staff and the state enforcement community.”
Based on the agency’s own estimate of the time necessary to train drivers on the new rule, along with software reprogramming and related transition costs published by FMCSA, the trucking industry alone will spend $320 million between now and July 1. And, this cost does not include costs to shippers, receivers and others in the supply chain. In addition, state enforcement agencies must spend taxpayer money to adapt to the rule changes. If the court agrees, in whole or in part, with ATA that the rule changes at issue must be rejected, those expenditures will have been irrecoverably squandered.
“At a time of rising diesel prices and increased equipment and labor costs, the decision by the head of FMCSA to reject a reasonable request for a brief delay in enforcing this rule is unbelievable,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said.