HOS shakeup?

| September 05, 2007

The American Trucking Associations is calling on Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to push for a stay of a federal appeals court ruling on hours-of-service regulations and to encourage the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to conduct an expedited rulemaking to address the court’s concerns.

An alternative to a stay is for the court to remand the rules, meaning that FMCSA would have to reconsider the two provisions the court objects to while those provisions remain in place, ATA says.

“While ATA is disappointed with the decision, we are encouraged by the fact that the shortcomings identified by the Court are procedural in nature and can be readily addressed by FMCSA,” ATA President Bill Graves said in a July 31 letter to Peters.

Citing procedural flaws in the rulemaking, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on July 24 vacated the 11-hour driving time provision and the 34-hour weekly restart provision of the HOS regulations. With a 45-day period for FMCSA to seek reconsideration and another week for the ruling to take effect, the current regulations would remain in place at least until mid-September.

“There is no compelling safety reason for these two elements of the rule to be vacated,” Graves told Peters. “Just a week ago your Department issued its final truck-involved fatality figures for 2006 – the first full year of the industry operating under these new HOS rules – and fatalities declined by 4.7 percent, the largest drop in 14 years.”

In its reference to the “first full year,” ATA is talking about the rule as modified in August 2005. That modification sharply limited use of the sleeper berth for splitting rest. However, truck-involved fatalities in 2004 and 2005 – both full years operating under the first rewrite of the HOS rules – were higher than they were in 2003.

Graves told Peters that if the 11 hours of driving and the 34-hour restart are vacated in mid-September, “there will be disruptions in the supply chain, our economy will suffer, and the highway safety implications become an unreasoned variable.”

In asking for an expedited rulemaking on just those two provisions, Graves said that FMCSA’s policy decisions were sound and that FMCSA’s methodology just “needs to be better explained.”

At a news conference addressing ATA’s proposed national clearinghouse on drug testing results as well as the HOS situation, Graves said ATA would be filing its own motion for a stay but the support of DOT and FMCSA will be critical.
- Avery Vise

ATA Proposes Drug Testing Clearinghouse
The American Trucking Associations in August urged Congress to authorize and fund a centralized clearinghouse for positive drug and alcohol testing results of commercial motor vehicle drivers to ensure that motor carrier employers are aware of previous positive test results during the hiring process.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., ATA President Bill Graves said such a clearinghouse would improve the industry’s ability to keep alcohol and drug abusers off the road and improve safety on the nation’s roadways.

The federal government required drug and alcohol testing of commercial truck drivers in 1995. As measured by a percentage of positive test results, drug abuse in the trucking industry is less than half of that found in the general work force, ATA says. But with between 2 percent and 2.5 percent of the truck driver population testing positive, that’s 68,000 drivers with some type of substance abuse problem, Graves noted, an unacceptable number.

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