SPECIAL REPORT: Feds seeking HOS comments, but only for 45 days

| 1/19/2005

Truckers who have wanted to get their say in on the impending, mandated revision to the hours-of-service rules will get their chance starting Monday, Jan. 24.

Just don't wait too long if you want to comment. Normally, a comment period is open for anywhere from two to three months. But this one has been trimmed back to 45 days and will end March 10.

In this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, specific questions are posed. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration encourages truckers, law-enforcement officials, safety advocates and others to not only comment, but address the specific questions laid out in the NPRM.

A federal appeals court tossed out the current HOS rules 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."

That ruling sent the FMCSA back to the drawing board. The April 2003 HOS rules - which went into effect in January 2004 - are still in effect, but not indefinitely. That leaves the FMCSA with a compressed schedule to revamp the rules.

According to an FMCSA press release, the agency is conducting a comprehensive scientific review of HOS and the physical effects of operating commercial vehicles on drivers. The agency also has a team reviewing the current HOS regulations, trying to decide whether changes should be made to better protect truckers and others on the roads.

In addition to drivers' health, the team is looking at provisions adopted in the 2003 HOS rule that increased the daily driving limit from 10 to 11 hours, continued drivers' use of sleeper berths and allowed a 34-hour restart period.

- By Jami Jones, Land Line staff