FMCSA extends HOS comment period, won’t make court deadline for rule

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Updated May 27, 2011

Hours

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced Friday, May 6, that it has placed four additional documents in the public docket of its December 2010 notice of proposed rulemaking concerning hours of service for commercial motor vehicle drivers and that it was reopening the NPRM’s comment period for 30 days to allow for review and discussion of the documents and FMCSA’s possible consideration of their findings in the development of the final rule.

FMCSA also said that because of the comment period’s extension, it will be unable to issue the final rule by a court-negotiated deadline of July 26. The agency said only comments related to the four additional documents will be considered during the 30-day extension. The four studies are:
• “The Impact of Driving, Non-Driving Work, and Rest Breaks on Driving Performance in Commercial Motor Vehicle Operations“;
• “Hours of Service and Driver Fatigue-Driver Characteristics Research“;
• “Analysis of the Relationship Between Operator Cumulative Driving Hours and Involvement in Preventable Collisions“; and
• “Potential Causes Of Driver Fatigue: A Study On Transit Bus Operators In Florida.”

FMCSA also advised the public of an adjustment to the rulemaking schedule previously agreed to in litigation before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Case No. 09-1094). Pursuant to an Oct. 26, 2009 agreement between Public Citizen, other petitioners and FMCSA, the agency was to publish a final rule within 21 months of the date of the settlement agreement.

FMCSA said the extra comment period for the four additional documents will require additional time that was not envisioned in 2009 and that it will be unable to publish a final rule by the previously agreed-upon date of July 26, 2011. The agency and petitioners have agreed to a new Oct. 28 deadline, FMCSA said in a court filing.

Bill Graves, president and chief executive officer of the American Trucking Associations, said his group was “intrigued” by FMCSA’s “unusual announcement” and was “clearly skeptical of new research that has been discovered or generated by DOT (the U.S. Department of Transportation) at the ‘11th hour.’ “

Graves said ATA believes decisions about the future of the hours-of-service regulation should be made based on sound science and research and not political pressure. “Given that DOT, according to a key sleep and health researcher, may have misused scientific data as part of this process, ATA will carefully review this new information,” he said. “We hope and trust that FMCSA will give stakeholders adequate time to evaluate it.”

FMCSA used the work of Dr. Francesco Cappuccio, who co-authored a 2007 study used by the agency to conclude that short projected increases in sleep could generate roughly $690 million in annual health benefits for drivers. According to ATA, Cappuccio states FMCSA misused his sleep research and concluded that the agency cannot use it to quantify benefits to justify its regulatory changes.

To comment on the four additional documents, go to www.regulations.gov; the docket number is FMCSA-2004-19608. The deadline to file comments is June 9.