February 24, 2012
The federal rule for truck driver hours of service still fails to make needed improvements regarding tired truckers and should be subjected to judicial review, according to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen, the Truck Safety Coalition, and two truck drivers who filed a lawsuit challenging the new rule.In the lawsuit, filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the parties seek judicial review of the final HOS rule issued on Dec. 16, 2011, by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The groups are challenging the fact that the agency's final rule failed to reduce the 11-hour limit on consecutive driving hours to 10 hours, despite the agency's statement in the proposed rule that "the 10-hour rule is currently FMCSA's currently preferred option" because it would be most effective in reducing driver fatigue. Although the agency had no data to support its adoption of the longer 11-hour limit in 2004, the agency decided to stand by it, say the groups.The new final rule also fails to eliminate the 34-hour restart provision, which the groups say encourages cumulative fatigue and allows drivers to exceed weekly driving and work limits. The lawsuit says changes included in the December 2011 final rule do not prevent the most fatigued drivers, those who work on a schedule of 70 hours of driving in eight days, from continually using the 34-hour restart every week or being required to do so by their trucking company.The safety groups also are challenging a new definition of off-duty driving that would not require the entire 10-hour rest period to be spent in the sleeper cab, but allow up to two hours of it to be taken sitting in the passenger seat. The American Trucking Associations announced recently that it is suing over the rules, as well. ATA said the agency overstated the safety benefits of the new rule, and that the costs outweigh the claimed benefits.