ATA asks states for leniency on hours rules

In letters to each of the state governors, the American Trucking Associations is asking that enforcement officials follow the lead of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in establishing a three-month “soft enforcement” period for the new hours-of-service regulations.

The rules take effect on Saturday, Oct. 1, but FMCSA has decided to designate a transition period through the end of the year to give the trucking industry and states time to modify educational materials, train employees and reprogram computers.

Although the latest rules are similar to those previously in place, they contain a significant change in how drivers can use sleeper berths to meet rest requirements. During the transition, FMCSA will monitor carriers for “egregious violations” of the rules, defined as “those that show a clear disregard for safety by the motor carrier or operator.”

FMCSA encourages states “to show comparable enforcement discretion.” According to ATA, however, more than 20 states have already codified the revised rules in state law and could enforce the new rules immediately.

Because of concerns over the sleeper berth provision, ATA also is seeking federal legislative action to stay the rules’ implementation date. One of the best vehicles for such a measure usually is a continuing resolution – legislation that continues funding for the federal government in the absence of individually approved appropriations acts.

But congressional leadership decided to maintain a clean continuing resolution and include only provisions essential for continued operations of the federal government. So ATA now is pursuing a separate bill in Congress to delay enforcement of the sleeper berth provisions until January 2006.