American Trucking Associations and its allies have asked a federal appeals court to strike four provisions of the hours-of-service rule that is scheduled to take effect next July.

The trucking interests told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration erred when it limited the 34-hour restart to once a week and required each restart to include two rest periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

They also object to the requirement that a driver must take a half-hour off if it's been more than eight hours since he took an off-duty or sleeper berth break. And they challenge the narrowing of the short-haul exemption.

The suit is the opening salvo in a legal battle that will extend through the fall. Safety advocacy groups are challenging the agency's decision to preserve the 11-hour driving limit. The agency has until October 24 to respond, and final briefs are due November 21. Oral arguments are not yet scheduled.

ATA contends that the rules established in 2004 work well and have contributed to significant improvements in industry safety.

When it rewrote the rule, FMCSA "systematically, and without regard for science or logic, distorted the available data in order to fit it to a predetermined and arbitrary outcome," said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves in a statement.

ATA's key argument is that the agency constructed its cost-benefit analysis of the restart and rest break provisions in order to justify the rule that it wanted to write.

That analysis enabled the agency to conclude that the benefits of the provisions outweighed the costs. "That conclusion, however, reflects nothing more than the agency's pre-existing preference of regulatory change," the groups said in their brief.

"The agency's cost-benefit analysis is driven by irrational assumptions and unjustifiable decisions made to inflate the total benefits produced by the rule."

They cited as an example the agency's claim that 13% of crashes are caused by fatigue. "FMCSA reached its 13% estimate by assuming that, whenever truck driver fatigue is present at the time of a crash, fatigue caused the crash," they said.

This contradicts the agency's prior finding that about 2% of crashes are caused by fatigue, they said.

Joining ATA in the brief are the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the National Industrial Transportation League, the Health & Personal Care Logistics Conference, the National Shipper's Strategic Transportation Council, the Truckload Carriers Association and William Trescott.