HOS update: Various challenges on the front burner

| 4/16/2004

In about three months, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is to rule on the merits of a suit by Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Parents Against Tired Truckers challenging the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours-of-service rules.

Meanwhile, a three-judge panel April 13 heard Public Citizens’ oral arguments for and against the HOS rule, which became effective Jan. 4, 2004. Public Citizen said FMCSA should issue a new rule because the new regulation does not accomplish the agency’s goal of improving safety, news reports said.

In the meantime, U.S. House and Senate conferees are to consider two amendments to the HOS rule.

One is an amendment by Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-AL, exempting motion picture and television production truck drivers from the new HOS regulations. The House voted 365-62 in favor of the measure.

In addition, Rep. Doug Bereuter, R-NE, introduced an amendment continuing the farm supply and agricultural commodity exemption to HOS rules. It also clarifies the definition of "agricultural commodities" and "farm supplies for agricultural purposes." It passed in the House by voice vote.

In a more sweeping effort to change the HOS rule, an amendment by U.S. Rep. John Boozman, R-AR, and more than 55 other legislators – which would return short-haul drivers to the old HOS rules and give all drivers the flexibility to occasionally log off the books for rest, a meal or other short breaks – was delayed.

Boozman offered the amendment March 24 during the markup of the House Transportation Bill, but withdrew it after Highways, Transit and Pipelines Subcommittee Chairman Tom Petri, R-WI, said he would hold hearings on this issue in the near future.

Boozman offered the amendment at the request of Bentonville, AR-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Springdale, AR-based Tyson Foods Inc. According to press reports, he said these companies do a lot of short-term trucking and would be pressured under new regulations to acquire more trucks and add more drivers.