ATA: FMCSA distorted data to justify hours rule

Updated Jul 31, 2012

In a brief filed Tuesday, July 24, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the American Trucking Associations argued that the latest changes to the hours-of-service rules add tremendous cost to the economy and undue burden onto drivers while providing minimal possible safety benefits.

“From the outset of FMCSA’s review of the hours-of-service rule, ATA has contended that the rules that have been in place since 2004 have been working and have been a major contributing factor in the reduction in truck-involved crashes and fatalities,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “FMCSA systematically, and without regard for science or logic, distorted the available data in order to fit it to a predetermined and arbitrary outcome. The brief filed today lays out this case convincingly, and we believe the court will come to see the merits of our case and vacate these potentially ruinous changes.”

While the final rule adopted last December retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit – the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration previously was in favor of reducing it to 10 hours – it reduces by 12 hours the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week. Under the old rule, truck drivers could work on average up to 82 hours within a seven-day period; the new HOS final rule limits a driver’s workweek to 70 hours.

In addition, truck drivers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Drivers can take the 30-minute break whenever they need rest during the eight-hour window.

The rule also requires truck drivers who maximize their weekly work hours to take at least two nights’ rest when their 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most – from 1 to 5 a.m. This rest requirement is part of the rule’s 34-hour restart provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their workweek by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. The final rule allows drivers to use the restart provision only once during a seven-day period.

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In its brief, ATA calls FMCSA’s changes “arbitrary and capricious as well as unwarranted.”

“The agency claims that restart restrictions and the off-duty break requirement are justified by the cost-benefit analysis in FMCSA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis,” the brief said. “That ‘analysis,’ however, is a sham. FMCSA stacked the deck in favor of its preferred outcome by basing its cost-benefit calculations on a host of transparently unjustifiable assumptions. FMCSA therefore cannot justify the 2011 final rule on the ground that it has net benefits.”

ATA continues to say the agency’s “purported justifications contradict the evidence in the administrative record and require the agency to ignore, without any supporting basis, numerous positions it previously adopted.”

The court has consolidated the various challenges to the final rule from both safety advocates and the trucking industry into one item. Safety advocates consider the rules too lax because FMCSA did not reduce drive time from 11 to 10 hours.

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