A coalition of highway safety and labor advocates have brought a federal lawsuit against the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for not heeding Congressional requirements to produce an entry-level driver training rule.
The suit was filed Sept. 18 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The plaintiffs say the agency is more than 20 years late on producing the rule by the original 1993 deadline, as Congress ordered in a 1991 law, and is now nearly a year late on the same requirement made by the 2012 MAP-21 highway funding act.
In a statement, FMCSA said it has been working on improving a rule it produced in 2004 regarding entry-level driver training.
“Safety is our top priority and FMCSA is working to improve upon the 2004 rule that is currently in place and implements entry-level driver training that includes behind-the-wheel instruction for operating large trucks and buses. We have engaged the public in listening sessions and are bringing together stakeholders to collaborate on a new proposal that meets the requirements passed in the 2012 transportation bill and prepares drivers for the job.”
Plaintiffs in the suit include the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways. Their suit argues the DOT’s failure to produce an entry-level driver training rule “constitutes agency action ‘unlawfully withheld’ and ‘not in accordance with law,’” according to court documents.
Public Citizen is representing the groups.
“People are dying needlessly while the agency drags its feet,” said Henry Jasny, senior vice president and general counsel with Advocates. “New truck drivers need to be properly trained before they get behind the wheel. This is a dereliction of the agency’s duty.”
The groups say in their lawsuit they have filed petitions with courts in the past trying to spur the agency to act. They filed a suit in 2004 seeking the agency to propose rulemaking on the minimum requirements for training that drivers should have prior to receiving their CDL.
The plaintiffs also take FMCSA to task for not only having not produced a final rule by MAP-21’s October 2013 deadline, but not even having initiated the rulemaking process. The suit refers to an August 2014 notice from the agency in which FMCSA said it was exploring the option of producing the rule via a “negotiated rulemaking” with industry stakeholders.
The groups want the court to order the DOT to produce a proposed rule within 60 days of a court ruling and to issue a final rule within 120 days after the issuance of the proposed rule.