ATA urges carriers to file comments on hours-of-service rule

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The American Trucking Associations on Thursday, Jan. 10, encouraged carriers to file comments with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on its Dec. 17 Interim Final Rule regarding hours of service.

FMCSA issued the IFR with intentions to retain intact the 11-hour daily driving time limit and 34-hour restart. The agency has called for comments on the IFR and plans to issue a final rule in regards to these provisions during 2008.

ATA has developed two documents – a model letter and a supplemental guide – to aid motor carriers in preparing their response. These documents, along with general instructions, can be found here.

Comments must be filed with FMCSA no later than Feb. 15. ATA will be making a submission on specific issues raised by the agency, but direct involvement by trucking companies is essential, ATA says. For more information, contact Dave Potts, ATA director of safety and operations, at dpotts@trucking.org or 703-838-1848.

Under the IFR made public Dec. 11, truck drivers will continue to be limited to driving only 11 hours within a 14-hour duty period, after which they must go off duty for at least 10 hours. The IFR also retains the provision of the hours rules that allows drivers to restart their cumulative on-duty limits by taking 34 consecutive hours off duty. FMCSA also is seeking comment on its methodology and on safety data that was not available when the agency issued its most recent version of the rules in 2005.

The agency issued the new hours-of-service rule in response to the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacating those two key provisions of the existing rules. The IFR took effect Dec. 27 — the same day that a stay granted by the appeals court expired. In order to ensure no gap in coverage of the rules, the IFR temporarily reinstated those two provisions while the agency gathered public comment on its actions and the underlying safety analysis before issuing a final rule.

In its July opinion, the court voided the 11 hours of driving and the 34-hour restart on the grounds that the public didn’t have adequate notice of FMCSA’s methodology for analyzing crash risk. The IFR was developed after new data showed that safety levels have been maintained since the 11-hour driving limit was first implemented in 2003, FMCSA said.

After the IFR became effective Dec. 27, a 60-day period began for the public to comment on the proposal and its underlying safety analysis. Further analysis after that could take “a few weeks or even a few months,” said FMCSA Administrator John Hill. Once a final rule has been established, FMCSA will review longstanding concerns from drivers and carriers over the provision that restricts the sleeper berth split to eight-hour and two-hour periods, Hill said.

Hill noted that the agency also is working to finalize a proposed rule that would require drivers and trucking companies with serious or repeat hours-of-service violations to track their hours of service using electronic onboard recorders.