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Court Upholds 34-Hour Restart, Rejects 30-Minute Break for Short-Haul Drivers

August 2, 2013

By Oliver Patton

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UPDATED--In the end, the side that held its breath the longest won.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the 34-hour restart provision of the new truck driver hours-of-service rule but rejected the 30-minute break requirement for short-haul drivers.

“[The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration] won the day not on the strengths of its rulemaking prowess, but through an artless war of attrition,” wrote Judge Janice Roberts Brown for the unanimous court.

In today’s decision, the court mainly deferred to FMCSA expertise on the details.

“We conclude that what remains of the 2003 Final Rule after two remands and three rulemakings are highly technical points best left to the agency,” Brown wrote.

The court looked at arguments against the 34-hour restart rule, including its provisions limiting use to once a week and requiring drivers to take off two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Public Citizen had challenged the restart rule generally, but the court decided that the group did not justify its standing to make the challenge.

American Trucking Associations had challenged the two limitations on the restart.

ATA argued that the one-a-week restriction was invalid because the agency had in the past supported unlimited use of the 34-hour restart.

But the agency said it changed its view when it learned that some carriers used the unlimited restart to add an additional work shift per week.

It is reasonable for the agency to make such a change, the court said in upholding the once-a-week limit on the restart.

ATA’s criticism of the two-night requirement was that it runs counter to the agency’s practice of promoting a consistent, 24-hour daily schedule.

The requirement that drivers take two periods off between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. encourages night drivers who are used to sleeping during the day to get their rest at night during a restart, ATA said.

The agency’s response to this was that it never pushed maintenance of circadian rhythms above all else, and the court agreed.

Even more compelling, the court said, is a study concluding that two nights of rest are better at mitigating fatigue in nighttime drivers than one night.

The court also addressed Public Citizen’s challenge of the 11-hour driving limit.

The agency settled on the 11-hour limit because it could not show that a 10-hour limit would have higher net benefits.

Public Citizen contended that this in effect put cost-effectiveness before safety, contrary to the law.

The court said that while this argument “has some intuitive appeal” it reads too much into the law.

“We cannot say [the agency’s] approach is irreconcilable with congressional intent,” Brown wrote.

The court rejected two of ATA’s three arguments against the requirement that short-haul drivers take a 30-minute break.

But the third argument hit home. ATA said the agency did not adequately explain its decision to apply the break requirement to short-haul drivers as well as long-haul drivers.

The court agreed, and said that the 30-minute break requirement for short-haul drivers must be vacated.

The court also addressed the ongoing fight between trucking interests and safety advocates over the role that fatigue plays in crashes.

Brown noted that Public Citizen puts the range of fatigue-related crashes between 13% and maybe more than 30%, and ATA puts it at about 2.2%.

“We hardly think it proper to second-guess the agency’s decision to employ a 7%-to-18% range,” she wrote.

It remains to be seen, however, if Brown’s conclusion about the impact of today’s decision will hold.

“With one small exception, our decision today brings to an end the permanent warfare surrounding the HOS rules,” she wrote.

The rule has been in constant litigation for the past decade and today’s decision is unlikely to resolve hostilities.

For instance, it seems clear from Public Citizen’s commentary that the group will continue to resist the 11-hour driving limit.

Next page: The industry reacts

Comments

  1. 1. BREADMAN [ August 02, 2013 @ 08:30AM ]

    I WONDER IF THE PEOPLE IN WASHINGTON WILL EVER FIGURE OUT THAT MORE RULES DONT SOLVE ALL THE PROBLEMS.

  2. 2. willim miles [ August 02, 2013 @ 08:55AM ]

    why are people that can't drive their cars from Washington DC to Baltimore making up rules for drivers who drive across the country

  3. 3. Chuck Germann [ August 02, 2013 @ 08:59AM ]

    My own doctor does not put the restrictions on my lifestyle that the DOT feels is necessary for me to exist.

  4. 4. Dixk [ August 02, 2013 @ 09:03AM ]

    Bunch of girly metrosexuals making rules for real hard working men and women. Go figure!

  5. 5. KENNETH LEMLEY [ August 02, 2013 @ 09:15AM ]

    YES THE ONE'S BACK IN { WASHINGTON DC }NEED TO COME OUT HERE JUST TO SEE WHAT GO'S ON OUT IF ALL THE DRIVER JUST PUT IN 8HR A DAY THE PEOPLE WOULD NOT HAVE WHAT THEY NEED DAY BY DAY IF ALL THE TRUCK'S STOP FOR 24 HR YOU ALL WOULD BE OUT OF ALL THE THING'S YOU NEED ..BUT YOU AFTER ALL TRUCK DRIVER FOR THE OVER HR THING BUT THE DAY TO DAY CAR DRIVER COS MORE WRACK'S THEN TRUCK DRIVER BUT A TRUCK DRIVER GET THE BLAME FOR COS WHERE I LIVE WE HAVE TWO TRUCK WRACK'S BUT THE CAR WAS PASSING THE TRUCK AND HIT A CAR HEAD ON AND KILL THE TWO MEN BUT THE TRUCK HAD NOT A THING TO ABOUT BUT THEY GOT THE BLAME JUST COS IT WAS A BIG RIG TRUCK

    ]

  6. 6. Ronald Reed [ August 02, 2013 @ 09:34AM ]

    How can anyone communicate with these people, They only have a mouth and NO ears

  7. 7. driverdriver [ August 02, 2013 @ 10:03AM ]

    this is not a good thing we deliver at night and this break kills us once our motivation is gone we are a danger to everyone around us. wake up and see who these rule effect when you take a break from physical labor of delivering product it is more harmful than good

  8. 8. Big A [ August 02, 2013 @ 10:22AM ]

    I don't suppose the fact that I spent 6 hours at a receiver last night to get my load unloaded would interest these fine folks. I unloaded the load in 45 minutes, the other 5+ hours was playing the waiting game... Arrive 1 hour early for your appointment, wait 4 hours for a door... unload your freight for 45 minutes wait an hour for a receiver to tag 40 pallets and sign their name.... wait 15 minutes for some truck driver hating office person to stamp your bills and give you a pass to get out the gate! Yeah, we the drivers sure do need some additional regulations, yup that's the answer!! Pencil pushers in DC don't have a clue!

  9. 9. pieri trucking [ August 02, 2013 @ 10:47AM ]

    We are the most discrimnated against people in the world.

  10. 10. Kevin J. Reidy [ August 02, 2013 @ 11:34AM ]

    What's really awesome is that the stated study used by the FMCSA was done in 2003...before the re-start rule and HOS changes were EVEN IN EFFECT.

    They are using data that has NO RELEVANCE to the current HOS.

  11. 11. nightfire [ August 02, 2013 @ 04:21PM ]

    Like the abuseful father or husband that says I'm doing this for your own good, I just wish the fmcsa would quit being so good to me

  12. 12. Mike [ August 02, 2013 @ 09:15PM ]

    Where does the liberals STOP and Americans get our right to freedom back.
    How does the Feds know what's best for me they can barley handle themselves!!!!!

  13. 13. peter [ August 02, 2013 @ 10:38PM ]

    So We got modern slavery at transportation businesses!, congratulations!

  14. 14. Chris [ August 03, 2013 @ 12:13AM ]

    At the end of the day we will be parked more hrs than we will be working. A trip coast to coast just got 2 days longer away from my family. I just hope they have forecasted the parking issue we already have. Good luck finding parking between 1am and 5am. At this point we should push for a pay by the hr. The pay per mile isn't really paying the bills anymore.
    You can run out if hrs waiting to get loaded for 8 hrs with minimal or no compensation and can't make it up anymore with the new 34hrs restart rule. How much more rested do you want us to be. I'm already lethargic for sitting too much!

  15. 15. MARLON. [ August 03, 2013 @ 09:21AM ]

    I PERSONALY, DO NOT NEED SOMONE ELSE TELLING ME THAT, I'M TIRED, THE ONLY PERSON THAT CAN TELL ME THAT, I'M TIRED IS MY SELFE., SO IF I'M TIRED I JUST STOP AND GO TO SLEEP, IT REALY DOS NOT MATTER IF I HAVE HOURS TO KEEP DRIVING. SO THE ONLY RULE I ACSEPT IS, IF YOU ARE TIRED YOU GOT TO SLEEP AND IF YOU ARE NOT JUST KEEP DRIVING, I THINK THAT IS THE SAFEST RULE THAT REALLY SAVE LIFES. I HAVE SEEN DRIVERS DRIVING FATIGUED, BUT BECAUSE THERE IS THE RULE THAT HE HAS 11 HOURS TO DRIVE. HE OR SHE IS PUSHED TO DRIVE. NOT BY THE COMPANY BUT BY THE, FMCSA. SO I DO NOT SEE THE SAFTY IN THAT PRACTICE.I'M I THE ONLY ONE THAT SEE THAT!!!???

  16. 16. M.Ware [ August 04, 2013 @ 05:37AM ]

    THE FEDS ARE THINKING OF ALL THESE RULES FOR THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY BUT .....THEY FAIL TO LOOK AT THE PERSONAL VEHICLES THAT TRAVELS THE SAME HIGHWAY AS TRUCKS. LAWS CAN'T MAKE UP FOR COMMON SENSE. I THINK "MOST" TRUCKDRIVERS ARE THE SAFEST MOTORISTS ON THE HIGHWAYS ! I VALUE MY LIFE ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT, I'M TIRED AND NEED REST.

  17. 17. B.cade [ August 04, 2013 @ 08:27AM ]

    As a 100 mile Radius Driver that drives at night confused at how you came up with this two 1to5am breaks that only affects night shift,.dayshift not affected as they daily get 1 to 5 am breaks everyday so is this not regulating nightshift over dayshift seems that dayshift will never be in violation and can work Saturdays and still be in compliance with two breaks as they have already done 5, 1 to 5 am breaks. Dot says not many drivers run at night huh,most autoparts plants run at night to get loads on-time..shame that I will be forced to become a criminal in order to pursue the American dream by being able to work overtime to buy food,clothes,house etc....YOU MADE ME A CRIMINAL...

  18. 18. D. Woods [ August 05, 2013 @ 03:53AM ]

    Whine and cry over the new rules all you want. If trucking companies had not been so busy abusing drivers and making them run illegal then we wouldn't be where we are today. And, as far as I'm concerned, the FMCSA is not done.
    I got jerked around so bad last week being forced to drive days one day and nights the next and so on, that by the end of the week I was literally sick and my body could not even figure out when to be tired and when to sleep. Dispatch is so screwed up with electronic logs they do not even know how to take the drivers health or sleep patterns into consideration.
    I have learned to keep a daily diary on my computer so that if I do end up in a serious crash as a result of being jerked around on my sleep patterns the resulting investigation will lead to even more stricter laws. This stuff has to be done right regardless of the cost! Too many lives are at stake!

  19. 19. Paleto [ August 05, 2013 @ 05:08AM ]

    As many times as I've heard FMCSA explain their methodology for the Limitations to the 34-hr Restart..............I still can't understand why One 34-hr Off in 7 days is better than 34-hrs Off several time in 7 days....?????????

  20. 20. D. Woods [ August 05, 2013 @ 06:10AM ]

    Simply put, If you have to put in more than 70 hours in a week, maybe it might be better to go to work for a better company.

  21. 21. Fitz [ August 05, 2013 @ 11:21AM ]

    Well, well, well listen to all the birdies chirp you guys are great at bitching but always after the fact and in the wrong direction. Oh I am not saying that you don't have a reason too, just that it's always late and not to who it should go to. You sat on your hands since 1990 when the FMCSA was created and haven't done anything since or during. When was the last time you sent a letter to them, or put together a petition. ATA on the left side of their mouths say the represent you but who do they, big carriers, OOIDA does a great job but for Owner Operators, what's left 70% of the rest of you that are not heard. You dug your hole live in it. You allowed misfits into the industry which have made your world the way it is. Either get it together with your peers or deal with what you have coming to you.

  22. 22. orvil fearon [ August 05, 2013 @ 01:18PM ]

    the 34 hr restart is not the problem the problem is the amount of driving a driver have to do to make a hundred dollars a day what the goonies in washington should do is set a better pay scale to truck drivers then they would not have to worry about a driver been tired.

  23. 23. Lee Lenard [ August 06, 2013 @ 06:42PM ]

    Kudos to "B.Cade" and "Paleto", you are on track! Amazing that since the new HOS were instituted that the number of truck wrecks I see each work night have gone from ZERO to as many as 3 per night and some of these bad. Before it was the occasional....so much for those "Circadian rythms" . I know that with my own body I stay tired and they body constantly fighting against itself. We for night distribution went to 2 days on, 2 days off 2 night on 1 day off to meet the two night back to back and still fulfill customer delivery requirements. This plays havoc on the body. Constantly readjusting plus the "Pay loss" of $260 to $320 per week. Now having to work another non-DOT job trying to make up part of the loss. Now less rest than ever. The 9-fivers in FMSCA cannot understand this!

  24. 24. Colonel Jenkins [ October 26, 2013 @ 01:27PM ]

    They should get rid of all these rules. Anyone who can't drive 15 or 16 hours without a break should NOT be in Trucking.

    If it weren't for these rules we could clean out the industry and get rid of the lazy people who don't want to put in a full day's work.

    I don't make money unless I'm MOVING. If I could drive 24 hours a day, I would.

 

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