ATA files motion to intervene in hours-of-service review

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The American Trucking Associations on Thursday, March 12, filed a motion to intervene in the third legal challenge by the Teamsters and three safety advocacy groups to the hours-of-service rules first put in place in 2004. Having participated in the administrative process and the prior court cases, ATA says it seeks the right to intervene to protect the interests of its motor carrier members.

The Teamsters, Public Citizen, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and the Truck Safety Coalition asked an appeals court Monday, March 9, to review the latest hours-of-service rules. The groups also sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking him to begin work on a new regulation.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s final rule, published Nov. 19 in the Federal Register, adopted the provisions of its Dec. 17, 2007, interim final rule on the hours rules. The agency issued the December 2007 IFR to hold current regulations in place pending a reconsideration ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which twice has struck down the Bush administration’s hours-of-service rules on various grounds.

Under the final rule, commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers may continue to drive up to 11 hours within a 14-hour nonextendable window from the start of the workday, following at least 10 consecutive hours off duty. And motor carriers and drivers may continue to restart calculations of the weekly on-duty limits after the driver has at least 34 consecutive hours off duty. The 11-hour and 34-hour rules were at the heart of Public Citizen’s second challenge to the hours rules.

The Bush administration’s Nov. 19 publication of the hours rules came in just under the wire in order to avoid the moratorium on rules declared by the Obama administration, as well as possible congressional action to negate them.

FMCSA took action on the last full working day before President Obama’s inauguration to ensure that the new administration would not be able to easily undo the final hours regulations. In a Jan. 16 letter to the safety advocacy groups, FMCSA stood by its decisions to retain the 34-hour restart and 11 hours of driving, saying that there had been ample scientific evidence backing the safety of the regulations.

The four safety advocacy groups, which on Dec. 18 had filed a petition for reconsideration, had 60 days after the Jan. 16 denial to file for a review of the decision by the D.C. appeals court. The Obama administration also could initiate its own reconsideration of the hours rules, but it would have to start over from the beginning with a notice of proposed rulemaking.

ATA says that based on the groups’ petition for reconsideration, it expects that the groups will argue that scientific studies do not support the retention of the 11th hour of driving and 34-hour restart components. ATA says it believes that FMCSA “has done an outstanding job explaining the scientific underpinnings of its decision to retain the HOS provisions” and that positive real-world safety records, experienced since 2004 under the revised HOS rules, also bolster the defense of the ruling.