Safety Groups Ask Court to Review HOS Rule

Safety advocates and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are asking a federal appeals court to review the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) recently revised hours-of-service rule, which upped truckers' maximum daily driving time from 10 to 11 hours.

In a petition filed Dec.5, five groups – the Teamsters; Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways; Parents Against Tired Truck Drivers; Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety; and Public Citizen – asked the court to review the revised hours-of-service (HOS) rule that was issued by FMCSA on August 25, 2005.

The petitioners complain that the revised rule increases both the number of hours that truckers may drive without a break and the number of hours truckers may drive per week.

Under the revised HOS rule, truckers may drive 77 hours in 7 days or 88 hours in 8 days – a more than 25 percent increase from the previous regulation. On-duty hours during which truckers may drive also have climbed, allowing a truck driver working 14-hour shifts to work as many as 84 hours in 7 days or 98 hours in 8 days – a 40 percent increase over the old limits.

Safety advocates also oppose the provision for a 34-hour restart period, which resets the driver's clock after a 34-hour rest period. According to the Teamsters, this puts drivers behind the wheel 14 hours longer with considerably less rest than the old rules.

"We have said from day one that the rules as they stand need to be changed," said Jim Hoffa, president of the Teamsters. "They force drivers to work more hours with less rest over the course of a given week. Their safety and the citizens they share the roads with are put at risk because these rules only lead to increased driver fatigue."

FMCSA Rule is "Astounding"

FMCSA had issued a similar HOS rule in April 2003. However, Public Citizen and two other advocacy groups filed a lawsuit challenging the 2003 rule, and as a result the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the HOS rule in a July 16, 2004, opinion.

The appeals court concluded, in its opinion, that FMCSA's 2003 HOS rule "is arbitrary and capricious because the agency neglected to consider a statutorily mandated factor the impact of the rule on the health of drivers." The appeals court then ordered FMCSA to rewrite the rule.

Even so, many of the provisions in the revised HOS rule are the same as the 2003 rule. The 2003 rule increased truckers' maximum daily driving time from 10 to 11 hours, decreased the maximum daily shift from 15 to 14 hours and established a mandatory rest period of 10 hours per shift (up from 8 hours in the old rule.) All of those provisions carry over to the revised HOS rule.

Prior to 2003, truckers were permitted to drive no more than 10 consecutive hours before taking a break and drivers were barred from driving after they had worked 60 hours in the previous 7 days or 70 hours in the previous 8, depending on the company schedule, Public Citizen said.

"More than 5,000 people are killed each year in large truck-related crashes and more than 110,000 are injured," Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said. "That FMCSA chose in both rules to expand driving hours is astounding given its statutory mandate to make safety its highest priority and Congress's specific directive to the agency to reduce fatigue-related incidents."

In an August 2005 article on, FCSMA administrator Annette Sandberg defended the updated rule by stating that it "provides an increased opportunity for drivers to obtain necessary rest and restorative sleep, while also recognizing life's realities by providing the flexibility to move products and operate safely."

A copy of the petition can be seen on Public Citizen's Web site.

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