ANALYSIS: Public Citizen, FMCSA dismiss current HOS lawsuit

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 1/24/2012

Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 – The latest skirmish in the hours-of-service war has drawn to a close. The parties in the latest lawsuit challenging the regulation have agreed to dismiss the lawsuit.

In a joint motion to dismiss filed on Monday, Jan. 23, Public Citizen, Teamsters, Advocates for Highway Safety, Truck Safety Coalition and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration agreed to dismiss the lawsuit.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean HOS is in the clear.

The reason for the dismissal is that the regulation being challenged in the lawsuit no longer exists.

The changes made by FMCSA – altering 34-hour restart and mandating breaks – were enough to make the current lawsuit a moot point.

And just because the parties agreed to dismiss the lawsuit on those grounds, that doesn’t mean all of the plaintiffs were happy with the changes.

After the regulation was released to the public on Dec. 22, 2011, the reception by the plaintiffs was lukewarm at best.

“We said all along that an hours-of-service rule has to protect highway safety and our truck drivers’ health. We are reviewing the new rule, and in the coming weeks we will meet and discuss it with our allies and, if necessary, determine our next course of action,” Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa said in a statement.

Advocates for Highway Safety’s response was much more critical of the rule and certainly leads many to believe that while this lawsuit may be over, another could very well be on the horizon.

“The Obama administration today issued a new rule for truck driver hours of service that fails to make all of the improvements needed to protect the public from tired truckers,” a Dec. 22, 2011, press release from the group stated.

“The new HOS rule adopts one of the most dangerous parts of the Bush-era rule, the 11-hour consecutive driving shift that allows drivers to stay on the road an extra hour compared to the traditional 10-hour limit, which was the accepted limit for nearly 70 years.”

The Truck Safety Coalition also expressed disappointment with the regulation, also citing the 11th hour of driving.

“This rule has been a long time coming, and I am beyond disappointed that once again industry profits were put before the safety of the motoring public and truck drivers. I don't know what it is going to take for the government to get real about protecting us on our roads,” Daphne Izer, co-founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers, which is part of the Truck Safety Coalition, stated in the group’s Dec. 22 press release.

Public Citizen, the lead plaintiff in the case, was silent on the new regulations.

With the dismissal, the only course of action left for the plaintiffs to take a run at the 11th hour of driving is to file suit again.

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