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TCA joins in HOS lawsuit

The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) has joined the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) court action as an intervenor against the current hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, challenging the way they were adopted.

The intervenors argued in their July 18 court presentation about the way in which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) officials arrived at the regulations. In the "notice of proposed rulemaking leading up to the current regulations, FMCSA officials merely proposed the 2003 version of the regulations," TCA said. "In addition to proposing the 2003 regulations, FMCSA officials broke down the notice into 29 areas of inquiry, each of which contained multiple questions about the 2003 rule and possible changes to the regulations.

"The breadth of the options under consideration was extremely wide, and the lack of focus on specific proposals for a new rule was obvious. The notice of proposed rulemaking and the way in which information was presented and how the comments were solicited was more of an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking approach, rather than the last stop before a final rule is announced."

Other associations that have entered the court battle include International Brotherhood of Teamsters, AFL-CIO, California Trucking Association, and Ohio Trucking Association (OTA).

OOIDA petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit after petitioning the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for two changes to the current HOS regulations. The current regulations are set up in a way that if a trucker chooses to split up the required 10 hours of off-duty time, one of the two periods must be at least eight hours. That eight-hour rest period stops the 14-hour maximum on-duty clock. The other two off-duty hours can be taken at another time, either in the sleeper or out, to fulfill the 10-hour off-duty requirement, but they do not stop the 14-hour clock, OOIDA contends.

"We were simply asking that those two hours would also stop the clock, that the driver could take those off-duty and not count against his working time," OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston said in early 2006. "We think it's commonsense because it's consistent with the 10-hour off-duty requirement."

The other change OOIDA petitioned for involved split sleeper-berth provision for team drivers. Under the current HOS regulations, team drivers have to take a minimum of eight consecutive hours off in the sleeper berth. So one driver is virtually imprisoned in the sleeper berth, and the other driver is pressured to drive at least eight hours in one stretch while the other driver is off duty, OOIDA said.

"That's impractical for most team operations," Johnston said earlier. "We initially petitioned the DOT to retain what was then the current sleeper-berth exemption, which allowed the drivers to take sleeper-berth time in whatever increments they wanted, as long as no period was less than two hours."

FMCSA denied OOIDA's petition for reconsideration, forcing the association to take the matter to court, OOIDA said.

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