Oral arguments up next in case over hours of service

April 22, 2022

Mark Schremmer


Oral arguments over changes to the hours-of-service regulations that went into effect in 2020 will be heard next week.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is scheduled to hear the case between the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at 9:30 a.m. Eastern on Monday, April 25. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is serving as an intervenor in the case to defend the changes aimed at providing more flexibility to truck drivers.

The Advocates, which are made up of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and several safety groups, argue that the changes to short-haul operations and the 30-minute break that went into effect in September 2020 negatively affect safety and were made without justification. FMCSA and OOIDA contend that the rule changes were part of a two-year process based on research and more than 8,000 comments from drivers and other stakeholders.

As part of oral arguments, the petitioners and respondents each receive 15 minutes to state their case and answer questions to the D.C. Circuit’s three-judge panel. FMCSA and OOIDA will share the respondents’ 15 minutes.

OOIDA President Todd Spencer said the Association is taking part to speak up for the drivers who are affected by the hours-of-service rule changes.

“We’re supporting the agency’s position because they did the right thing with these rule changes,” Spencer said. “We’re supporting the views of the people who are actually affected. We think it’s important for the court to hear the views from the people on the front lines. They deserve to be heard.”

A livestream of the oral arguments will be available through the D.C. Circuit website and the court’s YouTube page.

The judges will be Judith W. Rogers, Patricia A. Millett and Gregory G. Katsas.

The changes

Prompted by an OOIDA petition from February 2018, FMCSA made four changes to the hours of service in an attempt to give truck drivers more flexibility within the rules. The short-haul operations provision increased the on-duty limits from 12 to 14 hours and from 100 air-miles to 150. The 30-minute break provision was modified to allow on-duty, nondriving events, such as fueling or inspecting the load, to meet the requirement. The rule changes also included changes to the adverse driving provision and split-sleeper options, but those updates are not being contested in court.

The Teamsters, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and Parents Against Tired Truckers call the changes “arbitrary” and say the agency didn’t consider the risks caused by provisions involving short haul and rest breaks.

FMCSA responded by claiming the petitioners lacked standing by not even attempting to identify members who have suffered harm from the rule.

OOIDA believes the changes to the hours of service were based in common sense and aimed at giving drivers more flexibility to drive when they deem it is safe and to stop when they are tired. LL