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ATA Seeks Additional Safety Regulation

A petition that asks the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to reconsider some of the details of the truck drivers' Hours of Service (HOS) rules raises no new substantive safety issues, according to the American Trucking Associations.

A number of anti-truck groups and their allies have asked the FMCSA to reconsider the HOS rules, which the ATA believes have been proven safe in both scientific research and in actual on-road operations over the last four years on American highways, where crash data shows the trucking industry is safer than it has ever been.

As part of the trucking industry's ongoing safety efforts, ATA President and CEO Bill Graves asked the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters to approve new regulations that will require the use of Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) for motor carriers with a history of failing to comply with Hours of Service rules. By automatically creating an electronic record of the vehicle's travel, EOBRs improve compliance with Hours of Service rules.

"We believe that a new EOBR regulation will help to further improve the safety compliance posture of motor carriers, which could lead to further truck safety improvements in the years ahead," Graves said in the letter. "I know we share this important goal."

The current Hours of Service rules, which have been in effect since January 2004, have never, contrary to claims from Public Citizen and others, been overturned in court on substantive grounds related to their safety impact, according to the ATA. Rather, prior legal rulings have been based on procedural problems. FMCSA has corrected those procedural errors and earlier this year, the D.C. Circuit rebuffed a Public Citizen substantive challenge to the 11- and 34-hour provisions as part of the agency's Interim Final HOS Rule.

The current rules replaced decades-old rules and made them safer by shortening the drivers' work day by an hour or more and increasing the drivers' required daily rest period by 2 hours, or 25 percent. The rules also permit a restart of the weekly HOS "clock" if a driver remains off duty for 34 hours or more. The restart is intended to encourage drivers to take extended periods of off-duty rest time at home.

FMCSA reissued the HOS rule on November 19, 2008. FMCSA has no deadline for ruling on the Public Citizen petition. The reconsideration petition, if rejected, would not delay the January 19, 2009, effective date of the HOS rule.

By letter, ATA urged Office of Management and Budget Director Jim Nussle and Transportation Secretary Peters to approve regulations drafted by FMCSA to require electronic on-board recorders for motor carriers with a history of failing to comply with HOS rules. The EOBR rule is an important truck safety regulation that was developed over the last four years, the ATA believes. It is significant because of its potential impact on HOS rule compliance by historically non-compliant motor carriers.
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