OOIDA seeks changes in new HOS rules

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In what appears to be the first petition for reconsideration filed in response to the new hours-of-service regulations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association on Aug. 29 asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for two changes in the rules, which were published in the Aug. 25 Federal Register.

Both changes relate to the new restrictions placed on use of the sleeper berth to satisfy mandatory rest. Under the new rules, a sleeper berth period stops the 14-hour clock only if it is at least eight consecutive hours in duration and is accompanied by a break of at least two consecutive hours during the work day. While mandatory, the two-hour break does not stop the 14-hour clock.

OOIDA contends that if the rest break is “an important tool in combating fatigue,” as FMCSA terms it, then it should stop the clock as the eight-hour sleeper berth period does.

“We’re simply asking that those two hours would also stop the clock, that the driver could take those off-duty and not count against his working time,” said OOIDA President Jim Johnston in announcing the petition. “We think its common sense because it’s consistent with the 10-hour off-duty requirement.”

OOIDA also is asking FMCSA to allow team drivers to split rest in sleeper berths as they can under the rules in place today. The rules in place since Jan. 4, 2004, allow team and solo drivers to take sleeper berth time in any combination of two periods that add to at least 10 hours and are at least two hours each. The new rules are impractical for most team operations, Johnston said.

The OOIDA petition for reconsideration almost certainly will not be the only one filed in response to the new rules, which are scheduled to take effect Oct. 1. Public Citizen, the lead party in the litigation that forced the new rules, on Aug. 19 essentially announced its plans to seek reconsideration of the rules, including FMCSA’s decision to retain the 11 hours of driving and the 34-hour restart. And other industry groups are likely to join OOIDA in seeking to exempt team drivers from the new limits on split rest.

OOIDA’s petition should be available online soon by visiting http://dms.dot.gov/search and searching Docket 19608.