ATA, TCA challenge hours rule

Updated Mar 19, 2012

In a filing March 15 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the American Trucking Associations identified four areas where it argues the Obama administration’s recent hours-of-service rule falls short of legal standards for regulatory changes.

In a statement of issues filed with the court, ATA contends several aspects of the rule issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are “arbitrary and capricious” and should be overturned.

Specifically, ATA questioned changes to the restart provision requiring it include two consecutive periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.; limits on the frequency with which a driver may use the restart; the requirement that a mandatory 30-minute break from driving also exclude all other on-duty activity; and narrowing certain exceptions to drive-time regulations for local delivery drivers.

“While we had hoped to avoid litigation by providing FMCSA with overwhelming evidence that their rulemaking process and proposals were flawed, now that we have challenged this regulation, we will do so vigorously and vocally,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “There are still many areas where the trucking industry and FMCSA can work together to make progress on highway safety, but the unsoundness of this regulatory process has forced us into court.”

The Truckload Carriers Association, seeking to join ATA’s litigation, filed a motion to intervene. TCA said its executive committee decided March 14 to file the motion to intervene in the interest of developing a rule that is based on sound science, advances public safety and meets the operational needs of its members. “Since the 2004 hours-of-service rule went into effect, we have experienced a year-over-year decline in crashes and fatalities involving commercial vehicles on our nation’s highways,” said Chris Burruss, TCA president. “Safety is paramount to the trucking industry, and while we remain committed to continuing to reduce accidents, we believe the new rule will take us backward, not forward. We have an obligation to protect our drivers and the motoring public, and we believe this rulemaking stands in conflict with that obligation.”

A coalition of safety advocacy groups on Feb. 24 also sued to overturn FMCSA’s latest rewrite of the hours-of-service rule. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen and the Truck Safety Coalition successfully challenged FMCSA over a previous version of the rule; the latest regulation published last December followed a legal settlement between the groups and the agency.