FMCSA’s Hours of Service Final Rule Could Soon Face Legal Challenge
Washington D.C. – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) unveiled its long-awaited hours of service (HOS) final rule last week, but it could soon face a legal challenge.
On Thursday, May 14, the Agency outlined four key changes to the existing HOS rules.
The changes include:
1) Amending the 30-minute break rule by requiring a break after 8 hours of consecutive driving and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not driving status, rather than off-duty status,
2) Modifying the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 split, or a 7/3 split—with neither period counting against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window,
3) Modifying the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted, and
4) Changing the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on‑duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.
A host of groups quickly issued statements decrying the final rule as “abandoning safety” and “eviscerating” safety regulations.
Among them were the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH).
Read more on their statements HERE.
“We’re really concerned with each and every provision in the final rule,” Peter Kurdock, General Counsel for CRASH told Transportation Nation Network (TNN) this week. “We have known for years that truck driver fatigue is a real problem within the industry and really each one of these provisions is going to result in extending the workday for truck drivers at a time when they’re already undertaking these heroic efforts to try to get all these supplies where they need to be during this national crisis so it’s a real concern for us.”
Teamsters spokesperson, Ted Gotsch told TNN, “The Teamsters believe the rule handed down last week runs counter to the safety of truckers and motorists all across the country.”
Both groups are mulling the prospect of mounting a legal challenge against the rule.
Any challenge would have to be filed within 30 days from the time it is published into the Federal Register, which as of Friday, May 22, has not yet been.
“The union is exploring all of its options going forward,” Gotsch said.
“It’s two hundred-something pages, so we’re still going through it and reviewing it. Once we finish our review of the rule we’re going to decide what we’re going to do going forward,” Kurdock advised.
Prasad Sharma, partner at Scopelitis, a law firm representing many mid to large-sized motor carriers, says he believes the FMCSA did a good job crafting the rule in preparation for a possible legal challenge.
“I think some of the safety groups may bring a claim that FMCSA’s rule was arbitrary and capricious,” Sharma surmised. “I don’t subscribe to that, but that’s what some of the safety groups may argue.”
Sharma indicated a challenge is likely to argue that “some of the changes such as the change to the break requirement is not justified by the research.”
Kurdock concurred and stated, “I certainly think the rule is susceptible to that type of an argument, but ultimately would be for the court to decide.”
Additionally, Sharma believes that if a challenge were to be filed, the short haul exemption will likely be in the crosshairs.
“I think they would argue the expansion of the short haul exemption will have a deleterious impact on safety and also not justified by the research,” he said.
The final rule is set to go into effect 120 days after it is published into the Federal Register.
TransportationNation.com will continue closely monitoring any new developments.