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ATA petitions to Retain Hours of Service Regulations

Citing the potential for “widespread disruption in the industry and the supply chain,” the American Trucking Associations submitted a petition today asking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to retain the 11-hour daily driving limit and 34-hour restart provisions of the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations.

The request is in response to a July 24 court decision that vacated the two HOS provisions, citing various procedural issues identified during the rulemaking process. The petition also asks the agency to establish a firm, expedited notice of proposed rulemaking process for addressing the issues identified by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“There is no compelling safety reason for these two elements of the rule to be vacated,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves noted in a letter to Transportation Secretary Mary Peters last month. Contrary to the claims of special interest groups, the Court’s decision did not state that the two elements were unsafe, merely that the FMCSA had not followed required procedures in developing those parts of the rule.

Critics of the rules have fixated on the one additional hour of driving that was allowed, and fail to note that the same version of the rules increased drivers’ required daily rest period from 8 hours to 10 hours and reduced the maximum on-duty period from 15 hours per day to 14 hours per day. Under the rules truck drivers could be assured of more rest time each day than under the previous rules.

ATA’s petition argues that it will be impossible for the trucking industry to adapt to immediate changes in the daily driving limit and restart provisions without significant and costly impacts upon carriers’ operations. ATA also argues that the inability of many states to immediately adapt to the new requirements will result in a patchwork of enforcement which could undermine the agency’s safety efforts.

ATA stated that a decline in fatalities in truck-involved crashes in 2006 demonstrates that continuation of these provisions will not degrade highway safety. The 4.7 percent decline in 2006 was the largest drop in 14 years. ATA argued further that FMCSA’s acceptance of the petition will provide the industry with the stability and operational certainty that it needs while the agency responds to the court.

The petition asked the agency to publish an Interim Final Rule by Sept. 14 to re-adopt the 11-hour driving limit and 34-hour restart; within 60 days after that, publish a proposed rulemaking that addresses the issues identified by the court; and publish a final rule within 180 days of the notice of proposed rulemaking’s publication.

The American Trucking Associations is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry. Through a federation of other trucking groups, industry-related conferences, and its 50 affiliated state trucking associations, ATA represents more than 37,000 members covering every type of motor carrier in the United States.

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