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