Graves reassures ATA members about hours appeal

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The American Trucking Associations is “doing our best to keep the 11th hour of daily driving and the 34-hour restart from being stricken from the HOS rules,” according to a Truckline letter to the group’s members from Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “This is a most important issue for us, and if we don’t keep these two parts of the HOS rules, trucking will become less safe and less productive,” Graves wrote.

ATA filed a motion Sept. 6 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.

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 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 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.

“Originally the Court’s mandate on eliminating the 11th hour and 34-hour restart provision was to have taken effect on Sept. 14,” Graves wrote. “The filing of our motion with the Court on Sept. 6 delayed that until approximately Sept. 26. Sometime after that we would expect the Court to announce its ruling. That ruling could approve our request for an 8-month stay, reject it, or provide for something in between.”

Graves wrote that on Monday, Sept. 10, he led a delegation of ATA members in a meeting with Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator John Hill and other high-level Department of Transportation officials to explain the trucking industry’s concerns.

Also attending the meeting were four trucking company executives: Chris Lofgren, president and CEO of Schneider National; Truckload Carriers Association Chairman Jim O’Neal, president of O&S Trucking; Mike Smid, CEO of YRC National Transportation; and Past ATA Chairman Steve Williams, chairman and CEO of Maverick USA.

“We asked DOT to either grant ATA’s petition to issue an Interim Final Rule (IFR) that would maintain the 11th hour and the 34-hour restart provision pending further agency action, or to support the ATA motion for a stay of the mandate filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which procedurally would have the same effect,” Graves wrote.

Graves told members ATA was “not sitting idly by” until the appeals court renders its decision. “We are marshaling a number of transportation and shipper organizations to file briefs in support of our motion with the court, and I’m glad to say that they are happy to join the cause. We have held two large briefing sessions with other business associations to explain the issue and the effects on their industries.”

Graves also said ATA surveyed its members for information on how they have used the 11th hour and the 34-hour restart, the safety record of those rules, and the loss of productivity they would suffer if those rules were eliminated. “We received 767 surveys, and we are compiling and analyzing the results,” Graves wrote.

Graves wrote that both ATA staff and leadership have held several meetings with the FMCSA administration to discuss HOS safety issues. “We met with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget,” he wrote. “In addition, ATA’s General Counsel and Deputy General Counsel met with their counterparts at the DOT and FMCSA, and our Office of Public Affairs has held dozens of briefings with reporters and placed an op-ed article in a number of daily newspapers across the country.”

Graves wrote that there also was one more HOS issue to be addressed once the current court effort is resolved. “ATA stands ready to provide a scientific basis for sleeper berth rule flexibility,” he wrote.