Monday, March 18, 2013

Road Haulage Hours of Service Changes Appealed by Trucking Group

Court Will Decide Whether New Rules are Restrictive
Shipping News Feature

US – On Friday the American Trucking Associations (ATA) presented a case before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, arguing against changes to hours of service rules instigated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2011 which become mandatory this year. The ATA claimed that the changes would put onerous restrictions on road haulage drivers’ ability to effectively manage their schedules by limiting the use of a restart period to once every seven days, as well as inflexibly mandating off-duty breaks during the workday. ATA contended that these changes were not supported by the data available and should be rejected.

The judges do not have a time frame in which they have to issue a verdict but the ATA is hopeful that judgement will be swift. ATA General Counsel Prasad Sharma commented:

“The existing rules have a proven track record, and the agency’s purported reasons for tinkering with them were baseless. We’re hopeful the judges will see through the agency’s mere pleas for deference and after-the-fact explanations for a rule that was agenda-driven rather than evidence-based.

“Public Citizen and its cohorts also faced tough questions they didn’t have good answers for despite [its] arguments, neither the law nor the data support Public Citizen’s contention that FMCSA was obliged to make the hours-of-service regulations more onerous than they are. Nothing they said today changed that.”

Despite requests from ATA, CVSA, and other stakeholders asking FMCSA to delay implementation of the rules until three months after the court issues its decision – to save the industry and enforcement community the expense of preparing for a rule that might never go into effect – the agency has indicated it plans to begin enforcement as scheduled on July 1.

Separately, a coalition of outside advocacy groups challenged FMCSA’s retention of the 11th hour of driving and the existence of the restart at all. European hauliers will look on with interest, US trucking groups have historically been slow to allow changes to working hours and the use of tachographs, accepted as essential elsewhere, has met with strong resistance (with some notable exceptions) despite most European drivers viewing a return to manual log books as akin to a return to roping and sheeting, and their acceptance of electronic data recording as an accurate, fairer and more convenient method of recording drivers’ hours.

Photo: The Court House, District of Columbia.