Final briefs filed in hours of service lawsuit

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s changes to hours of service have been in effect for about 18 months, but the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and several safety groups are trying to have two of the rule’s provisions removed.

The Teamsters, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Parents Against Fated Truckers argue that the agency’s changes to short-haul operations and the 30-minute break negatively impact safety and were made without justification.

The FMCSA and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which is acting as an intervenor in the case, say the rule changes were part of a two-year process based on research and more than 8,000 comments from parties. stakeholders.

On Tuesday, March 8, the final briefs from the trial were filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Oral arguments are scheduled for April 25.

Rule Changes

FMCSA does four changes to hours of service in a bid to give truckers more flexibility within the rules. The Short Range Operations provision increased duty limits from 12 to 14 hours and 100 air miles to 150. The 30-minute break provision was amended to allow for on-duty, non-driving events such as the refueling or load inspection. , to meet the requirement. The rule changes also included changes to the adverse conduct provision and split-berth options, but those updates are not being challenged in court.

The lawsuit was filed shortly before the rules took effect in September 2020, but was then put on hold in early 2021 to give a new administration time to get to grips with the case. The trial resumed in late 2021, with petitioners focusing on the short haul and break provisions.

Arbitrary changes?

The Teamsters and safety groups call the rule changes “arbitrary” and say the FMCSA failed to account for the risks caused by the new short drive and break provisions.

“With respect to short-haul changes, the FMCSA did not consider the risks of driving later in the workday, to reasonably respond to a study showing that short-haul drivers are at risk of ‘accident 383% higher than other drivers, and to respond adequately explain why the changes will not increase workplace accidents or affect compliance with hours of service regulations,’ the petitioners wrote in their memory.

“With respect to the changes to the 30-minute break requirement, the FMCSA did not analyze the effects of the changes on driver health or consider the effects of fatigue due to cumulative hours of service or at work without conduct.”

FMCSA position

The FMCSA responded by claiming that the petitioners lacked standing by not even attempting to identify members who suffered harm as a result of the rule.

The agency also argued that the changes were incremental and implemented after careful consideration.

“The incremental changes to the hours of service rules challenged here reflect the FMCSA’s appreciation of the scientific evidence and its careful consideration of the potential impacts on driver health and traffic safety,” the FMCSA wrote. “The current rule does not change how long a driver can drive, and it generally requires a 30-minute driving break after eight hours of driving. It represents a modest extension of the conditions a driver must meet to qualify for an exception to the logging requirements and allows truckers to use their 30-minute break to perform “on-duty” activities like refueling or paperwork.

OOIDA’s position

The Association believes that the changes to hours of service were based on common sense and intended to give drivers more flexibility to drive when they feel it is safe and to stop when tired.

OOIDA argues that the FMCSA justified its changes to the 30-minute break requirement on reasonable interpretations of administrative record data.

The main objection (of the petitioners) to the changes to the 30-minute break requirement is based on the idea that work, whether driving or not, causes fatigue… But the FMCSA specifically pointed evidence suggesting that any break in “time on task” provides important safety benefits. In addition to statistical evidence, commentators have provided similar information,” OOIDA wrote.

“OOIDA reported that forcing drivers to stop, for a 30-minute break, within the first eight hours of starting work, often causes drivers to stop before they get tired and stop at times or places where there is no safe place to park their truck, such as the shoulder of the freeway.The updated rule allows drivers to take advantage of natural, pre-existing breaks from driving.

Further, OOIDA stated that the petitioners’ arguments against the short distance provision were not supported by evidence.

“Generally, OOIDA takes umbrage at the implication that truckers typically attempt to meet or exceed the maximum driving time on a routine basis,” the Association wrote. “It is incorrect, misleading and unsupported in the record to state or imply that the hours of service limits have the practical effect of shortening the daily hours of the truck driving population as a matter of course.” LL

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