Teamsters, safety groups challenge FMCSA’s hours of service

September 17, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and a coalition of safety groups are attempting to stop FMCSA’s new hours-of-service rules from going into effect later this month.

The Teamsters, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and Parents Against Tired Truckers filed a petition for review of FMCSA’s final rule on Wednesday, Sept. 16 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

FMCSA’s final rule on hours of service, which is scheduled to take effect on Sept. 29, was aimed at providing truck drivers more flexibility within the regulations.

The Teamsters and the safety groups are seeking to invalidate what they call a “flawed” rule.

“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.

In June, the Teamsters joined the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers, and the Truck Safety Coalition to file a petition for reconsideration against the new rules aimed at providing more flexibility within the hours-of-service regulations. Separate petitions for reconsideration were filed by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and Anna Torrens. All three of those petitions were denied by FMCSA in late August.

New hours of service rules

The agency’s final rule, which is set to go into effect on Sept. 29, 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.

“Provisions that ensured drivers receive a brief 30-minute break after being on duty for eight hours and that govern the operations of drivers who start and return to the same location and remain within a defined geographic area known as ‘short-haul’ operations were significantly altered,” the groups said. “In proposing these revisions, the FMCSA has contradicted its own prior conclusions on these very issues and failed to undertake a proper analysis of the impacts the rule will have on truck drivers and the motoring public.”

The groups are represented by the Public Citizen Litigation Group.

OOIDA supportive of final rule

OOIDA has been supportive of FMCSA’s efforts toward modernizing the hours-of-service rules and said the changes will provide truckers more opportunities to rest when they are tired and improve highway safety overall.

“For many years, our members have repeatedly told lawmakers and the FMCSA that the existing hours-of-service rules are not sensible for today’s trucking industry,” OOIDA wrote in formal comments submitted in August. “They are overly complex and provide virtually no flexibility for drivers. They effectively force drivers to be on the road when they are tired, during busy travel times, during hazardous weather and road conditions, or when they simply are not feeling well.

“The unyielding 14-hour clock also pressures truckers to drive faster when they’re running short on available time. Additionally, drivers are frequently at the mercy of shippers and receivers in regards to loading and unloading their truck, which consumes between 11 and 20 hours in an average each week. Consequently, today’s hours-of-service requirements have not resulted in statistical improvements to highway safety. In fact, we would argue they jeopardize highway safety.”

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.