Hours final rule delayed till Nov. 28

Jill Dunn | October 28, 2011

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has postponed until Nov. 28 releasing an hours-of-service final rule.

Previously, transportation officials had indicated to a federal court it would publish the HOS final rule Friday, Oct. 28.

Meanwhile, three Senate leaders announced support for the HOS proposal.

The FMCSA said, “The petitioners have agreed to extend the October 28, 2011 deadline for publication of a final hours-of-service rule. FMCSA will continue to work toward publishing a final rule as quickly as possible. The parties to the settlement agreement will file their next status report with the Court on November 28, 2011.”

Two years ago, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Public Citizen and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reached a settlement to replace the current rule issued in 2008. Last year, the agency adhered to the agreement’s schedule by sending a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to the White House Office of Management and Budget by July 26.

It published an NPR December 2010, followed by the agency’s third status report to the court, which listed publication of a final rule by Oct. 28. The FMCSA sent a HOS final rule to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Aug. 11 and the next step would be for OMB to review it before the agency publishes it.

The FMCSA did not immediately respond to a request for an HOS status update.

Public Citizen attorney Greg Beck said beyond that last court status report, the agency has not provided further publication plans to the organization or the court. The Federal Register list of documents to be published Oct. 28 does not include the final rule.

Beck’s group and the other lawsuit plaintiffs, the Teamsters union, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and the Truck Safety Coalition, met with the OMB Oct. 18.

“At the meeting, we explained why driver fatigue is an important public-safety issue,” Beck said. “Agency officials listened to what we had to say, but did not comment. We are now just awaiting issuance of a rule.”

OMB staff members also met with the International Foodservice Distributors Association Oct. 20 and the American Trucking Associations Oct. 7 regarding the HOS proposal.

Democrat Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey backed the proposal in an Oct. 26 letter to President Obama.

The plan would reduce fatigue-related crashes and ensure flexible working hours while addressing issues noted in U.S. Court of Appeals decisions to overturn the 2003 and 2005 HOS rules, they said.

Boxer is the Environment and Public Works Committee chairman, while Rockefeller chairs the commerce committee. Lautenberg heads the commerce committee’s surface transportation subcommittee.

On Oct. 19, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) introduced an amendment to the transportation appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012 to block the proposal from being implemented. No further action has occurred on Senate Amendment 754 to H.R. 2112 yet.

Fellow Republican congressional members have written Obama that the proposal levies too many costs and regulations on trucking. Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia sent letters Oct. 5, preceded by Sept. 19 letters from John Mica of Florida, John Duncan of Tennessee, Bill Schuster of Pennsylvania and Sam Graves of Missouri.

The HOS proposal retains the 34-hour restart provision, which allows drivers to restart their weekly 60 or 70 hours by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. This restart would have to include two consecutive off-duty periods of midnight to 6 a.m. and drivers could use this restart once during a seven-day period.

Driving would have to be completed in a 14-hour workday and all on-duty work-related activities within 13 hours with at least one hour-long break. When the NPR was published, the FMCSA had not decided if daily driving time would be limited to 10 or 11 hours, but stated it favors a 10-hour limit.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations oppose the proposal.

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