SPECIAL REPORT: Court gives FMCSA 90 days to sort out HOS regs

| 10/3/2007

Wednesday, Oct. 3 – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has until just after Christmas to sort out what changes need to be made to the hours-of-service regulations.

On July 24, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit tossed the provision that increased driving time to 11 hours from 10 hours and the 34-hour restart provision. In that same decision, the court denied a petition by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association asking the court to consider the impact of changes to the sleeper-berth provision.

The court’s July decision – initially to go into effect Sept. 14 – was held off by petitions by OOIDA and the American Trucking Association.

OOIDA petitioned for a rehearing on its request to review changes to the split-sleeper berth provision and how FMCSA arrived at the final rule. ATA asked that the court’s decision not go into effect for eight months. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration echoed ATA’s request for a stay – only the agency wanted a 12-month stay.

The agency was rather limited on options in trying to meet the initial Sept. 14 deadline. In a response filed with the court supporting ATA’s motion for a stay, FMCSA’s legal team indicated agency officials had considered issuing an interim final rule to buy the agency enough time to gather data and comments in conjunction with a new final rule.

In an order – without any supporting opinion – handed down by the court late Sept. 28, nobody got their way, really.

OOIDA’s petition for a rehearing was denied and the court ruled that its order would go into effect in three months, not eight months as requested by ATA, or 12 months as requested by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

“Obviously we’re disappointed in the court’s decision denying our petition,” said OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Rick Craig.

OOIDA officials are in the process of reviewing options for working toward changes to the rule in the future.

Officials at FMCSA are also looking closely at the order.

“We are carefully evaluating our options in light of the court’s ruling. Make no mistake, maintaining the safety of America’s highways continues to be our priority,” FMCSA officials said in an official agency release following the court’s September order.

In the meantime, until some sort of interim final rule or some other official agency action, truckers are to continue operating under the current regulation, using the 11th hour of driving time and the 34-hour restart provision if they want.

In the 90 days leading up to Dec. 27, FMCSA must take some sort of official agency action to make any changes to the regulation.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor