Trucking industry, citizen advocacy groups continue HOS battle

Oct. 1, 2004
The battle over new hours-of-service (HOS) rules continues while a Washington DC appeals court receives opposing petitions from trucking associations

The battle over new hours-of-service (HOS) rules continues while a Washington DC appeals court receives opposing petitions from trucking associations and citizen advocacy groups. Trucking associations, including the American Trucking Associations, National Industrial Transportation League, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, and Canadian Trucking Alliance, and advocacy groups are in a legal battle over a recent court decision overturning the new HOS rules.

The legal skirmishes follow the July 2004 ruling by the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia saying that the regulations are “arbitrary and capricious.” The court listed concerns including driver health issues, an increase in maximum driving time from 10 hours to 11 hours, and sleeper berth exceptions. The unanimous decision, issued by a three-panel judge, sends the HOS back to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for a complete rewrite.

On August 30, FMCSA asked the court for more time to revisit the regulations and to allow the current rules to remain in effect until the issue is resolved. Trucking associations, among others, have advised carriers to operate under the new rules until further notice.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and the Canadian Trucking Alliance recently filed separate motions in the appeals court in support of FMCSA's efforts to keep the existing HOS rules in place while the agency deals with the issues raised by the court in its July decision.

Trucking industry groups are arguing that the intervention will, among other things, disrupt HOS-rules enforcement, compromise highway safety, and produce significant and unwarranted costs. The Canadian Trucking Alliance also predicted its industry will face significant and unwarranted costs if the current rules are vacated for some interim period.

CTA has asked the court to grant it amicus curiae — or “friend of the court” — status so its arguments supporting FMCSA's motion for a stay are taken into account. If the agency's motion is denied, it would have no choice but to reinstate the previous HOS rule for some indeterminate period while it attempts to put in place a revised rule or otherwise deal with the concerns raised by the court.

Unless the July ruling is stayed, CTA estimated 75,000 to 80,000 Canadian-based drivers operating in the United States will need to be trained on the former rules and then retrained on whatever rules are put in place after the current legal proceedings are concluded. In addition, carriers will have to reprogram their computer systems to schedule driving times, pick-ups and deliveries, as well as rest and fueling stops.

“The aggregate cost of education, training and adjustment of systems will be in the tens of millions of dollars,” CTA said. “Carriers will face incurring all these costs again when the FMCSA issues its next HOS regulations in compliance with the court's directive.”

Public Citizen, an advocacy group that often challenges the transportation industry on safety issues, has filed a brief asking the court to uphold its original decision. The group also has asked members of Congress to support the court ruling, according to Public Citizen information. Others involved with the Public Citizen argument are Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Parents Against Tired Truckers.

About the Author

Mary Davis