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ATA makes first move in HOS legal action

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
February 14, 2012

In response to the December ruling from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regarding its final rule for final rule for truck drivers’ Hours-of-Service (HOS), the American Trucking Associations (ATA) said it has filed a petition with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asking the court to review the rule.

In December 2010, the FMCSA rolled out its proposed HOS rules changes, which subsequently received decidedly mixed reviews in terms of their potential impact, in terms of its potential for an increase in the cost of doing business, as well as questions from trucking industry stakeholders as to whether or not these rules need to be changed from their current version, which have been in effect since 2004.

The final HOS rule is comprised of the following, according to FMCSA:

  • the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week has been reduced by 12 hours from 82 to 70;

  • truck drivers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes, and drivers can take the 30-minute break whenever they need rest during the eight-hour window;

  • the final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit (the FMCSA was considering lowering it to 10 hours) and will continue to conduct data analysis and research to further examine any risks associated with the 11 hours of driving time;

  • truckers who maximize their weekly work hours to take at least two nights’ rest when their 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most—from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. This rest requirement is part of the rule’s “34-hour restart” provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. The final rule allows drivers to use the restart provision only once during a seven-day period; and

  • carriers that allow drivers to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by 3 or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and drivers could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

FMCSA officials said that commercial truck drivers and companies must comply with the HOS final rule by July 1, 2013.

ATA officials pulled no punches in their reasoning for bringing this matter to court, which has long been expected in industry circles.

“We regret that FMCSA and the Obama administration have put ATA and its member companies in a position to take this legal action,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said in a statement. “The rules that have been in place since 2004 have contributed to unprecedented improvement in highway safety.  The law is clear about what steps FMCSA must undertake to change the rules and we cannot allow this rulemaking, which was fueled by changed assumptions and analyses that do not meet the required legal standards, to remain unchallenged.”

The ATA leader added that FMCSA’s own analyses show that even when they overstate the safety benefits of these changes, the costs created by their rule still outweigh those benefits.

“We need this issue to be resolved in a credible manner, taking into account the undisputed crash reduction since 2004, so we can focus limited government and industry resources on safety initiatives that will have a far greater impact on highway safety,” concluded Graves.

This course of events, as I mentioned before, is less than surprising. It is fair to say we all saw it coming. The real question is: what happens now? We will have to see, I guess.

As mentioned in a previous post, this final rule could have been more onerous and had even more potential to impact capacity and overall truck productivity. Some truckers have admitted that the rules are not as bad as they could have been.

In that post, I cited a comment Casey Chroust, RILA’s EVP of retail operations. Here is what he told me:

“Retailers are firmly aligned with carriers against these final HOS rules,” he said. “In today’s retail supply chain, just-in-time inventory rules the day. Retailers’ distribution networks are fine-tuned machines that are optimized down to the mile. HOS times greatly impact the ability for retailers to fulfill and ship their goods. We built distribution networks around the existing rules and done studies to determine optimal placement of distribution centers with the current HOS rules in place and the reach that it gets them. Now, the range of how far carriers can take retailers’ products will be reduced, coupled with a reduction in the ability of retailers to deliver goods in off-peak hours. These rules will increase congestion, costs, and emissions as a result.”

All good points there. Again, it sure is going to be an interesting ride.

 

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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