Safety groups ask court to overturn HOS

| 3/9/2009

Yet another chapter in the hours-of-service saga began today when four groups filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit asking that the current version of the regulation be tossed.

The groups filed paperwork on Monday, March 9, with the DC Circuit asking the court to review the Bush administration’s “midnight regulation” on hours of service. Challenging the HOS regulation are the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Public Citizen, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and the Truck Safety Coalition, which is partnership between The Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) Foundation, and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT).

The hours-of-service regulation has been plagued with legal battles since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration attempted to adopt new regulations in 2003. That version was tossed in mid-2004 by the DC Circuit. The court called it “arbitrary and capricious.”

FMCSA officials went back to the drawing table and in 2005 adopted the HOS regs that the industry operates under today. Those regs sustained a legal challenge that resulted in two provisions being tossed by the court on procedural issues in 2007.

The agency decided to keep the current regs in place while it went through the process of correcting its procedural errors and adopting the current regulation yet again in late 2008. The HOS regs became “official” again on Jan. 19 – just days before Bush left office.

The current regulation had no more been officially unveiled by FMCSA, than the four groups now bringing suit petitioned FMCSA for a reconsideration of the rule.

In his last official act as FMCSA administrator, John Hill denied the petition for reconsideration on Jan. 16.

The next step en route to attempting to overturn the HOS regs is to turn to the courts and file a petition for review – which is exactly what the groups did Monday with the DC Circuit.

The groups contend that FMCSA officials failed to consider driver health in arriving at the current HOS regs.

“Faced with the dual Congressional mandates of ensuring that its HOS rule has no detrimental effect on truck driver health … the agency threw up its hands and refused to factor in the health consequences of its rule … a refusal we doubt the DC Circuit will countenance,” the groups wrote in a letter sent to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

 – By Jami Jones, senior editor