Lawsuit over FMCSA’s hours-of-service changes to resume

October 20, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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A lawsuit over recent changes to the hours of service is expected to get started in December.

On Tuesday, Oct. 19, the parties jointly requested the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to move the case out of abeyance and to set a briefing schedule.

The case surrounds the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours-of-service final rule that went into effect on Sept. 29, 2020. The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Teamsters, and other safety groups filed the lawsuit in 2020 over the changes, saying the new rules would “further exacerbate the already well-known threat of fatigue among commercial motor vehicle drivers.”

Because the rule changes were implemented by a previous administration, the case has been on hold since February to give the agency time to familiarize itself with the lawsuit.

According to the proposed schedule submitted to the D.C. Circuit, the petitioner’s brief will be due Dec. 3.

Hours-of-service changes

With the goal of providing drivers more flexibility within the hours-of-service rules, the agency made changes to short-haul limits, the adverse driving provision, and the 30-minute break provision, and it added a split-sleeper option. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports the rule changes and is an intervenor in the lawsuit.

FMCSA’s move toward the rule changes lasted more than two years.

OOIDA got the ball rolling in February 2018, petitioning the agency to make changes that would increase drivers’ flexibility.

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.

Many of the comments stressed that the previous hours-of-service regulations combined with the electronic logging mandate created a “beat the clock” mentality that decreased safety.

Weeks before the rule went into effect, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Teamsters, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and Parents Against Tired Truckers challenged whether FMCSA had the authority to issue the final rule and argued that the final rule is “arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise contrary to law.”

“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 said the rule changes give truckers more opportunities to rest when they are tired and will lead to an overall improvement in safety. The rule changes have now been in effect for more than a year.

According to the proposed schedule, the FMCSA’s respondents’ brief will be due Jan. 18, and OOIDA’s intervenor brief is set for Jan. 25. Oral arguments have not been scheduled. LL

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.