Rumors in Washington have indicated several scenarios for the proposal, but the most persistent seems to be that the new rules would call for 14 hours off duty within each 24-hour period. That's the scenario that USA Today, the Associated Press and other media outlets published Friday.
The media coverage was prompted by a petition filed by the ATA Thursday, asking the Department of Transportation to make public the scientific research used to draw up the new regulations. USA Today obtained a copy of the petition from ATA.
The Federal Highway Administration is busily trying to finalize its proposed new rules on hours-of-service by Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater's fall deadline. Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety head Julie Cirillo has said she is trying to get them completed by the end of the summer. A first draft of the regulations was finished in late June, but there are many stages the proposal has to go through before it is finally published in the Federal Register for comments.
Daphne Izer, founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers, said she was unaware of the proposed rule and wanted to know why ATA seemed to have some inside knowledge of the proposal.
But Mike Russell, spokesman for ATA, said the petition was in response to "Washington tom-toms" — rumors — and, in fact, ATA publication Transport Topics said the proposal would reportedly reduce the maximum hours of on-duty time from 15 hours to 12.
ATA is working on its own proposal, which could be announced as early as September, focusing less on the number of hours worked and more "on the number of hours of rest and the quality of the rest."
Gail Shibley, spokeswoman for the Federal Highway Administration, said "we are literally in the process of finalizing our proposed rule, and it's inappropriate and illegal for us to make any specific comments or prejudge what that rule will be or will contain."
ATA's petition requests that the proposal "should rely upon the science underlying human fatigue and fatigue management." Shibley insists that it will.
"Clearly this rule will be based on sound science and our commitment to continuing to increase highway safety," she said. "We have been very unapologetic about those two points. We ought to make sure that our rules reflect the sound science that has been and is continuing to progress to identify circadian rhythms and other issues the body addresses, and what it means to operators of commercial motor vehicles to assure that everybody on our roads is safe."