HOS rule’s legality questioned by Teamsters, safety groups

October 26, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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A lawsuit challenging the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s changes to the hours of service will look at whether the agency had the authority to issue the final rule and whether or not the regulation is “arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise contrary to law.”

The Public Citizen Litigation Group filed the petitioners’ statement on behalf of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and a coalition of safety groups on Oct. 23 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

FMCSA’s final rule on hours of service, which aimed to provide drivers more flexibility, took effect on Sept. 29. The Teamsters, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and Parents Against Tired Truckers have called the changes “flawed” and filed a petition for reconsideration in June. After those petitions were denied, the groups filed a petition for review in the D.C. Circuit on Sept. 16.

“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.

The agency’s final rule includes four major changes.

  • The on-duty limits for short-haul operations will increase from 12 to 14 hours and from 100 air-miles to 150.
  • The adverse driving provision will extend 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 will be 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 will be 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.

OOIDA’s motion

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been supportive of the rule changes, saying that the modifications will 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.

“The hours-of-service rules directly impact OOIDA’s members,” the Association wrote in the motion. “It governs the management of their businesses, controls their working conditions and affects their daily lives. The changes to the hours-of-service rules … have significantly and positively impacted the interests of OOIDA’s members.

“OOIDA’s intervention in support of (the hours-of-service final rule) will address the legal and factual questions raised by petitioners.” LL

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.