Trucking Industry To Challenge HOS Rules

The American Truck Associations, the biggest trucking group in the United States, has filed a formal legal challenge against the new driver fatigue rules recently enacted by the Transportation Department. The group says that the rules focus on the wrong aspects of common safety issues and are in violation of the legal requirements. The petition was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals on February 14th. In the petition, the ATA called upon the Hobbs Act. This law makes it illegal to engage in extortion or robbery that affects instate commerce, and the group feels that these new rules violate this ruling.

Bill Graves, the CEO of the ATA, released a statement explaining the group's position. In it he stated that the rulemaking was driven by an analysis process that did not fulfill the legal requirements. He also said that the rules are based on assumptions about the industry. The Transportation Department originally wanted to limit drivers to 10 hours of driving per 24 hour period, but settled on the 11 hour limit after protests. The main requirement that has upset the trucking industry is the 34 hour rest period. Each week companies will be required to give drivers two consecutive nights off of the road.

The ATA says that their research indicates that speeding is far more dangerous than fatigue. This would make the new rules about rest periods ineffective at actually preventing injuries and fatalities on the road. The industry is calling for legislation requiring trucking companies to install speed-limiting equipment instead. Some trucking companies are considering adding the devices on their own to start the regulation process.

Some of the biggest companies in the industry, including Werner Enterprises, are joining the complaints against the regulations. Weekly off time must include rest between one A.M. and five A.M. during two days in a row. This is called a restart because the weekly time limit for a driver is reset after this rest period. A two day restart makes scheduling much more difficult by lowering a trucking driver's flexibility. Drivers will also have to do more traveling during peak hours, putting them at higher risk for accidents.

The previous version of these rules included two periods of rest during the week falling between midnight and six A.M. However, safety groups like the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety pushed to have the reset period up to two consecutive days. These groups claim that workers on truck driving jobs found loopholes with previous reset requirements that allowed them to work up to 82 hours each week, when current legislation limits them to 60 hours a week.

Some safety groups are complaining that the driving shift ruling is too lenient. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has called for the Transportation Department to lower the allowed shift for truck driving jobs to 10 hours or less. The government has battled through three lawsuits over the 11-hour shift, and agreed after the third settlement to change the regulations. The current administration understands that the shorter hours and stricter reset requirements will cause trucking companies to lose money. The Transportation Department is insisting that the regulations, which come into effect on July 1st, will only cost companies a total of $470 million. They also claim that monetary benefits will total at least $600 million. The ATA does not agree.

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