Federal Update
‘Third time’s a charm’
Court upholds HOS, lawmakers unhappy regs went into effect before mandated study complete

By Jami Jones, managing editor

The never-ending warfare over hours of service may very well be coming to a close as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld all but one provision of the regulations in an opinion filed Aug. 2.

The decision responds to a pair of challenges brought against the regulation. The first challenge was filed by the American Trucking Associations, and the second was filed by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen, and the Truck Safety Coalition.

The 22-page decision written by Judge Janice Rogers Brown concludes with Judge Brown being very clear that the court upholds the lion’s share of the current hours-of-service regulation.

“It is often said the third time’s a charm. That may well be true in this case, the third of its kind to be considered by the circuit. With one small exception, our decision today brings to an end much of the permanent warfare surrounding the HOS rules,” Judge Brown wrote.

However, she did not credit the rulemaking processes followed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

“Though FMCSA won the day not on the strengths of its rulemaking prowess, but through an artless war of attrition, the controversies of this round are ended.”

The decision vacates one small provision within the regulations.

Short-haul drivers will not be subject to the 30-minute off-duty break requirement.

“In all other respects, the petitions of both the ATA and Public Citizen are denied,” Judge Brown wrote in the decision.

Where it stands
The current hours-of-service regulations, which went into effect July 1, essentially stay as is thanks to the court’s ruling – minus the exemption for short-haul drivers.

For the rest of the industry (except for livestock haulers and Department of Defense loads that are also exempt), rest breaks are mandated.

Drivers may drive only if less than eight hours has passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes. Simply put, if you’ve been on duty for eight hours, you’ll need to take a 30-minute break before you can drive. However, the break does not stop the 14-hour duty clock.

The regulation also mandates that the 34-hour restart provision must include two overnight periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. in the restart. The restart is also restricted in the new regulations to only once per seven days.

Still not in the clear?
A letter spearheaded by four lawmakers will be heading to the Department of Transportation urging the agency to expedite a study on the changes to the hours-of-service regulation.

Lawmakers Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y.; Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C.; Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla.; and Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., circulated the letter around the Capitol asking fellow lawmakers to sign on to the letter.

The letter, now signed by 51 lawmakers, states that Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act – MAP-21, the current highway law – directed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to conduct a statistically valid field study by March 31, 2013.

“Even with the field study unfinished, the FMCSA finalized and enacted these untested new HOS regulations,” the lawmakers wrote. “We request that the FMCSA establish and provide to us the date on which the efficacy study required by MAP-21 and full report will be completed and submitted to Congress.”

Duane DeBruyne, an FMCSA spokesman, said that the data collection for the study was completed in July and that the final report is expected later this year. LL