The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has rejected a request by the American Trucking Associations to delay the start of updated hours-of-service regulations.

In response to a late January letter from ATA president Bill Graves, FMCSA Chief Counsel T.F. Scott Darling III on Feb. 22 denied a request to delay compliance with the new rules from a scheduled July 1 start date until three months after a federal court issues its decision on challenges to hours of service that ATA and other groups have filed. The letter from Graves was originally written to FMCSA administrator Anne Ferro.

In Darling’s letter he said, “Basically, your request to delay the compliance date of the rule is really a request for a stay, pending a decision by the court, plus an additional three months of non-compliance. The FMCSA has evaluated the issued raised in your letter and, for the reasons set forth in this response, has determined that staying the compliance date of the rule is not warranted.”

In Graves' letter to the agency, he wrote, “The requested delay will avoid potentially duplicative and unnecessary training, prevent confusion if the court’s decision alters in any manner the final rule, and, given the anticipated short length of the delay, will have no measureable impact on highway safety.”

FMCSA apparently did not agree. Darling said FMCSA does not believe ATA has demonstrated good reason to delay compliance, and that uncertainty over the outcome of the court case does not mean trucking or the enforcement community will be harmed. Darling said FMCSA is not willing “to sacrifice what may be several months of public safety benefits from the timely implementation of the rule.”

Oral arguments in the case are set for March 15. It’s not uncommon for courts to take at least a couple of months to render a decision.

The challenge to the updated hours-of-service regulations centers on allowing use of the 34-hour restart only once a week, with each restart to include time off between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. for two straight days, as well as the provision requiring drivers to take a half-hour break after no more than eight hours of driving. 

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