ATA asks court for 8-month stay on hours decision

The American Trucking Associations said Thursday, Sept. 6, that it was filing a motion that day asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for an eight-month stay of its mandate to eliminate the 11-hour and 34-hour restart provisions of the hours-of-service rules. A stay would leave the two provisions in place pending a review by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

ATA says its motion for a stay was necessary because FMCSA failed to respond to the group’s request for an interim final rule that would have readopted the 11-hour and 34-hour provisions for a short interim period. Without a request by some party to the case for a stay, the court’s decision could have become effective today, Sept. 7.

The mere act of filing a motion for stay serves as a short-term stay because under normal procedures, the appeals court will consider responses to ATA’s motion during a period of about 14 days. So the 11-hour and 34-hour provisions should remain in effect at least until late September, ATA says. In addition, the delay gives FMCSA additional time to consider whether it wants to adopt an interim final rule as ATA previously requested.

The appeals court ruled July 24 that provisions of the HOS rules that allow 11 hours of driving before mandatory rest and a resetting of the cumulative duty-time limits following a 34-hour break were invalid because FMCSA failed to give proper notice of changes in the methodology it used for analyzing crash risk.

On July 31, ATA urged Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to seek a stay of the court’s decision pending FMCSA review. As of Thursday, Sept. 6, the government had not sought such a delay in the ruling’s effectiveness.

“The trucking industry and its customers could not instantaneously shift to an hours-of-service regime with a different daily driving limit and without the 34-hour restart,” the ATA’s motion said. “Rather, such a conversion would require months of preparation.”

Changes would require retraining drivers and operating personnel, reprinting logs and other forms, reprogramming dispatching and electronic onboard recording software, reengineering routes, addressing customers’ issues, hiring new drivers and purchasing new trucks to compensate for the loss of productivity, ATA said in its motion.

ATA also argued that vacating the two provisions would eliminate the only hours provisions that partially offset the loss of productivity imposed by truckers and shippers by other HOS changes in 2005: the increase of the mandatory off-duty period from eight to 10 hours, the decrease of maximum on-duty hours from 15 to 14, and changes to sleeper-berth requirements.

More importantly, trucking companies “have experienced improved safety performance under the current HOS rules,” ATA said in its motion. ATA’s filing includes affidavits and declarations from a number of trucking companies that cite significant reduction in accident rates, a reduction in fatigue-related accidents, and “no evidence of increased risks of driving in the 11th hour in the real world – which is where the true test of safety occurs.”

ATA argued that the court should grant the stay because FMCSA is likely to be able to justify its adoption of the 11- and 34-hour provisions in the new rulemaking undertaken to address the court’s concerns, and because law enforcement agencies will not be able to adapt immediately to the new requirements.

ATA’s motion and addenda are available on the association’s website.