Federal Appeals Court Delays Truckers' Hours-of-Service Rule

ON Sept. 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a 90-day stay on its decision that struck down the 11-hour daily driving limit and 34-hour restart provisions of the Hours-of-Service regulations, which govern truck driver work and rest periods.

For 60 years, truckers could drive for 10 hours at a time. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has been trying to change the rule to allow truckers another hour of driving time. FMCSA first decided to increase the drive time in 2003, but the D.C. appeals court struck it down the next year. Congress reinstated the rule later that year, and it went into effect in 2005.

On July 24, the D.C. appeals court vacated the additional driving hour, as well as a provision that allows an off-duty period of 34 hours to restart the weekly on-duty limits, saying FMCSA did not adequately explain its reasoning for the rules (Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association vs. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, No. 06-1035a).

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) submitted a motion Sept. 6, asking the court for an eight-month stay of its mandate; FMCSA asked for a year. ATA officials said that while they await the decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation and FMCSA on how they plan to proceed during the 90-day stay granted by the court, ATA is confident the court has provided the agency sufficient time to issue an interim final rule that retains the 11-hour driving limit and the 34-hour restart.

Officials with Public Citizen, which has been challenging the FMSCA Hours-of-Service rule in this long-running case, said that the agency should use the time to oversee the transition to pre-2003 driving limits rather than continuing to insist on an Hours-of-Service scheme that endangers truck drivers and motorists.

The court's July 24 opinion can be found at http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/bin/opinions/allopinions.asp.

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