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1/20/2005
SPECIAL REPORT: FMCSA wants to know everything health-related to HOS

Comments - very detailed comments - will be sought beginning Monday, Jan. 24, on necessary changes to the current Hours of Service regulations.

A federal appeals court tossed the current HOS in July 2004. The court ruled that the regulations did not properly consider drivers' health. In its decision, announced July 16, 2004, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit called the HOS rules "arbitrary and capricious."

Apparently the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has taken the court's message to heart and will officially publish a 64-page notice of proposed rulemaking - the step in the process where the government want public comments on a proposed law - in the Federal Register Monday.

Right now the NPRM is only available from the Federal Register's office in Washington, DC. It will be posted on theFederal Register Web site beginning Monday, Jan. 24, for comment. No comments will be accepted on it until it is officially posted Monday.

In a copy of the 64-page document obtained by OOIDA and Land Line, FMCSA dissects each and every aspect of the current HOS rule then poses numerous specific questions the agency wants addressed during the comment period.

The comment process will be further complicated because of a shorter comment period - 45 days. Rules are commonly open for comment between two and three months.

FMCSA officials say in the NPRM that the shortened comment period is because the current rules will only remain in effect until Sept. 30.

"To facilitate discussion, the agency is putting forward the 2003 (current) rule as the 'proposal' on which public comments are sought," the NPRM states. "This NPRM, however, asks the public to comment on what changes to that rule, if any, are necessary to respond to the concerns raised by the court, and to provide data or studies that would support changes to, or continued use of, the 2003 rule."

OOIDA officials are reviewing the specific questions and preparing to craft the association's response to the NPRM.

"We intend to give this important issue serious consideration to make sure our response is well-reasoned and justified. Obviously, we believe it's important to address the issues raised by the court, but it's even more important to address the issues that drivers will face," said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president.

"While 45 days is a shorter time frame than usual, it should be enough time to come up with a well thought out response to FMCSA. We will be sharing our thoughts on the HOS proposal with members and other truckers in advance of the deadline."

OOIDA officials and Land Line staffers are in the process of creating a synopsis of the questions posed in order to make the comment process a little easier for truckers who are planning on submitting their own comments.

- By Jami Jones
jami_jones@landlinemag.com

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