FMCSA asks court to put HOS appeal on hold

February 19, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has filed an unopposed motion to pause an appeal that challenges the agency’s recent final rule on hours of service that went into effect in September.

Pointing to a change in administrations, the FMCSA asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Thursday, Feb. 18, to hold the appeal in abeyance for 60 days.

“Due to the recent change in administration on Jan. 20, there is new FMCSA leadership,” the agency wrote in its motion. “To allow the new agency officials sufficient time to become familiar with the issues and determine how they wish to proceed, respondents respectfully move to place this appeal in abeyance for 60 days.”

According to the motion, the petitioners, which include the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and Parents Against Tired Truckers, consent to the delay. The court is expected to approve the motion soon.

In the petitioners’ statement filed on Oct. 23, the groups challenged if the FMCSA had the authority to issue the final rule and whether or not the regulation is “arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise contrary to law.”

FMCSA’s updated hours of service, which took effect on Sept. 29, included four changes aimed at providing more flexibility to drivers:

  • The on-duty limits for short-haul operations increased from 12 to 14 hours and from 100 air-miles to 150.
  • The adverse driving provision extended the driving window two hours if the driver encounters adverse driving conditions. In the final rule, the definition of “adverse driving” was modified so that the exception may be applied based on the driver’s (in addition to the dispatcher’s) knowledge of the conditions after being dispatched.
  • In addition to splits of 10/0 and 8/2, drivers are allowed a split-sleeper option of 7/3. Also, the qualifying period doesn’t count against the 14-hour window.
  • The 30-minute break provision was modified to require the break after eight hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time) and allows an on-duty/not driving period to qualify as the required break.

FMCSA’s move toward the rule changes lasted more than two years. The agency issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in August 2018. FMCSA conducted several listening sessions and received more than 8,000 comments from the public before releasing the final rule.

The Teamsters and the safety groups have called the changes “flawed.”

“Under the guise of increased flexibility, the changes will further exacerbate the already well-known threat of fatigue among commercial motor vehicle drivers by significantly weakening current hours-of-service rules,” the groups said in a news release.

OOIDA’s motion

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been supportive of the rule changes, saying that the modifications provide truckers more opportunities to rest when they are tired and improve highway safety overall.

On Oct. 16, OOIDA filed a motion for leave to intervene in support of FMCSA. LL

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Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.