Federal Appeals Court hears arguments in driver-training case

| 9/14/2005

The level of professionalism in America’s trucking industry is in the hands of three federal judges who listened to arguments for and against the FMCSA’s driver-training rule this week.

Attorneys for OOIDA and other public interest groups that are challenging the rule faced off Tuesday, Sept. 13, against Department of Justice lawyers representing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in the U.S. Appeals Court in Washington, DC.

A three-judge panel listened to the arguments against the rule – which took the feds 13 years to write and which does not include any requirements that entry-level drivers receive any actual training in how to drive a commercial motor vehicle.

The government’s lawyers argued that the rule meets the 1991 mandate from Congress to develop a driver-training rule or report back to Congress why it would not be in the public interest to have one.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and other safety groups filed suit after the FMCSA published its rule in May 2004. OOIDA and the other groups want the appeals court to throw out the rule and send the FMCSA back to the drawing board to develop a driver-training rule that includes teaching people how to drive commercial vehicles.

“The government says its rule does meet driver training needs,” said Paul Cullen Jr., who is on OOIDA’s legal team. “But neither our brief nor the court – through it’s questions (Tuesday) to the government – could find any connection between what the government provided in its final rule and any of the information that it developed in its earlier study.”

Cullen said that the court does not have a deadline to file its ruling in the case, but the judges may issue their ruling by the end of this year.

The final driver-training rule published by the FMCSA last year requires a total of 10 hours of training for entry-level commercial motor vehicle drivers. Those 10 hours do not include any actual driving.

The rule requires potential drivers to learn: how to fill out government paperwork regarding hours-of-service rules; what qualifications commercial drivers must meet to receive a CDL; what government “whistle-blower” protections are available to them; and how to maintain “driver wellness.”

– By Coral Beach, staff editor