Truckers Group Wants Court to Rule on New Driver Rules

New rules could put more trucks on the road, and cost manufacturers more to ship goods.

As was hinted at last month, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), a trade association that serves the interests of the major U.S. trucking companies, has gone ahead and filed a petition with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, requesting that the court review the new hours of service rules for truck drivers announced in December 2011 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The new rules reduce the maximum number of hours a truck driver can be on the road from 82 hours per week to 70 hours. The FMCSA claims the shortening of hours per week will help take tired truck drivers off the road. However, the agency left intact the daily 11-hour driving limit.

"We regret that FMCSA and the Obama administration have put ATA and its member companies in a position to take this legal action," says Bill Graves, president and CEO of the ATA. "The rules that have been in place since 2004 have contributed to unprecedented improvement in highway safety. The law is clear about what steps FMCSA must undertake to change the rules and we cannot allow this rulemaking, which was fueled by changed assumptions and analyses that do not meet the required legal standards, to remain unchallenged."

Graves continues, "FMCSA's own analyses show that even when they overstate the safety benefits of these changes, the costs created by their rule still outweigh those benefits. We need this issue to be resolved in a credible manner, taking into account the undisputed crash reduction since 2004, so we can focus limited government and industry resources on safety initiatives that will have a far greater impact on highway safety."

As reported earlier, the FMCSA's new rules failed to win approval from manufacturers or their representatives, since the rules could end up forcing more trucks on the road during the busiest hours of the day. As Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, stated when the new rules were announced, the new rules "will have a negative impact on manufacturers' supply chains, distribution operations and productivity. The Obama Administration conceded that it lacked evidence to support many of the proposed changes and still moved forward with new requirements that will place more trucks on the road during peak driving times and will fail to improve safety."

As Timmons points out, "Manufacturers have built their logistical operations based on the current rules and have invested heavily in compliance since their implementation. To change these rules and limit the flexibility of manufacturers without sufficient reasoning is a mistake and will impede the ability of manufacturers to invest, grow and create jobs."

Curiously, though, the FMCSA's new rules haven't done much to placate the interests of the safety groups that were urging tighter restrictions on driver hours. For them, reducing the 11-hour daily limit down to 10 hours was a major goal, perhaps even more important than reducing the work week.

According to ATA's Graves, his organization will work with FMCSA to implement rules and programs that are "based on sound research, and that will have a meaningful, demonstrated impact on highway safety." That includes supporting FMCSA's move toward mandated electronic on-board recorders to ensure greater compliance with the current rules, and to facilitate better enforcement of those rules.

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