SPECIAL REPORT: U.S. District Court chucks FMCSA’s HOS rules: Says they are ‘arbitrary and capricious’

| 7/16/2004

A federal court July 16 threw out Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules extending the amount of time commercial truckers can drive between breaks, mostly because the changes did not consider driver health.

"We agree with the petitioners that the rule is arbitrary and capricious because the agency failed to consider the impact of the rules on the health of drivers . Because the agency has wholly failed to comply with this specific statutory requirement, this single objection from petitioners is sufficient to establish an arbitrary and capricious decision requiring (that the rule be vacated)," the court ruled.

The court was acting on a suit spearheaded by Public Citizen, Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH).

Citing federal law, the court said FMCSA is required to ensure the operation of commercial motor vehicles does not have a harmful effect on the physical condition of the operators.

However, "the FMCSA points to nothing in the agency's extensive deliberations establishing that it considered the statutorily mandated factor of drivers' health in the slightest," the court said.

The court added: "It is one thing to consider whether an overworked driver is likely to drive less safely and therefore cause accidents. Whether overwork and sleep deprivation have deleterious effects on the physical health of the driver is quite another."

Meanwhile, FMCSA is due to issue a statement clarifying whether drivers should now operate under the old or new rules. Land Line will provide guidance as soon as the agency issues its statement.