SPECIAL REPORT: Not just yet; court challenges delay HOS changes

| 9/13/2007

Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007 – Nothing is going to change with the hours-of-service regulations on Friday, Sept. 14, thanks to a pair of legal challenges filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said that until FMCSA takes some sort of official action truckers should continue operating under the 11-hour driving rule and utilizing the 34-hour restart if needed.

The court handed down a decision on July 24 that granted Public Citizen’s petition to eliminate the 34-hour restart and 11-hour driving limit. At that time, the court also denied a petition submitted by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association requesting the 14-hour on-duty clock be stopped when truckers use the split sleeper-berth provision and that sleeper-berth time be divided in segments smaller than an eight-consecutive-hour period and a two-hour period.

That decision was not to go into effect until mid-September.

Just before that deadline, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Association filed separate legal challenges.

OOIDA requested that the court reconsider its opinion on certain hours-of-service rules. OOIDA asked the court to rehear portions of its July opinion on sleeper-berth provisions and the prohibition on drivers stopping the 14-hour clock to take short rest breaks and naps on two legal grounds.

The ATA filed a motion seeking to stay the court’s decision for eight months to allow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration time to come up with a rule.

Both cases effectively delayed the Sept. 14 deadline for the court’s decision to go into effect.

“Nothing is going to happen on the 14th because the court has to make a determination regarding the rehearing and the stay. Until the court sorts out those two requests, nothing is going to happen. Everything is on hold,” said Charles Miller, a spokesman with the Department of Justice.

“I would love to tell you when something is going to happen, but right now we just don’t know,” Miller said. “We’re just waiting to hear from the court when they are going to review the various requests that have come in from different organizations.”

When it comes to complying with hours of service, no matter what happens in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, changes to the regulations can only come from the FMCSA.

The court’s decision that vacated two portions of the regulation does not actually change the regulation. That’s FMCSA job. And, the court’s decision does not tell FMCSA what changes to make to the regulation. That’s up to FMCSA to decide how to accommodate the court’s ruling.

“The court’s ruling impacts the agency, not the truckers,” said OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston. “Truckers should continue operating the way you are until we see some sort of official action out of FMCSA.”

– By Jami Jones, senior editor