Hours of Service Court Fight Resumes

Seeking a legal trifecta, the group Public Citizen has gone back to federal court to prevent the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from implementing an hours of service interim rule that will allow truckers to drive for 11 hours a day. The rule imperils both truckers and the driving public, Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook told a U.S. Senate subcommittee last week before her group asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to enforce its earlier decision striking down the rule.

"FMCSA is asleep at the wheel when it comes to truck safety, particularly in how it ignores tired truckers," Claybrook said. Public Citizen and some allied organizations have twice sued successfully to overturn the rule, most recently in July when the court ordered FMCSA to come up with a new rule. Instead, the federal agency reissued the rule Dec. 11, with its administrator saying a record-low fatality rate for large trucks in 2006 proves its safety value. The rule allows commercial truck drivers to spend seven consecutive days on the road with a 34-hour break; they can drive 88 hours in an eight-day period. Joining Public Citizen in the latest court filing were Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

"Drivers must have a 'weekend' like most other American workers to recover from the exhaustion of driving long hours, to spend time with family, and to enjoy some life outside of the truck cab," Claybrook said. "This proposal keeps in place hours-of-service limits that improve highway safety by ensuring that drivers are rested and ready to work," FMCSA Administrator John H. Hill stated when the rule was issued Dec. 11. "The data makes clear that these rules continue to protect drivers, make our roads safer, and keep our economy moving."

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