A federal appeals court has overturned two provisions of the federal rule governing commercial motor vehicle operators’ hours of service, finding that the agency that issued the regulations failed to adequately justify them.
A federal appeals court has overturned two provisions of the federal rule governing commercial motor vehicle operators’ hours of service, finding that the agency that issued the regulations failed to adequately justify them. See Owner Operator Ind. Driver Ass’n v. FMCSA (D.C. Cir. July 24, 2007). In this decision, the court vacated a provision of the rule permitting commercial motor vehicle operators to drive 11 hours per day. The prior rule limited driving time to 10 hours per day. The court also vacated a provision that permits drivers to restart the “clock” limiting the their weekly on-duty time whenever they take a 34-hour break. The court rejected challenges to other provisions of the rule, including a provision requiring operators’ on-duty time to be capped at 14 hours per day.
This is the second time the D.C. Circuit has addressed hours of service regulations issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In 2003 the court vacated almost identical regulations, finding them to be arbitrary and capricious because the FMCSA failed to consider the impact of the rules on the health of drivers
Congress blocked enforcement of the court order vacating the 2003 regulations and the FMCSA issued new, almost identical, regulations in 2005. This time, however, the FMCSA stated that it had considered and addressed the court’s concerns regarding driver health and concluded that the 2005 regulations would either have no effect or yield a net improvement over the pre-2003 regulations. The FMCSA also stated that its new rule would improve highway safety by reducing fatigue related accidents. Additionally, the agency relied on a new cost-benefit analysis, from which it concluded that the economic cost of rescinding the 11-hour daily driving limit and the 34-hour restart provision outweighed the safety benefits that would result from rescission.
Subsequently, Public Citizen (a consumer advocacy group) filed this lawsuit, challenging the 11-hour daily driving limit and the 34-hour restart provision. The court agreed with the group’s challenges, finding that the FMCSA failed to disclose in time for comment the methodology by which it derived an important factor in the operator-fatigue model upon which it based its cost-benefit analysis. Additionally, the court held that the FMCSA failed to provide an adequate explanation for its decision to adopt the 11-hour daily driving limit and the 34-hour restart provision. Accordingly, the court vacated these portions of the 2005 regulations.
The FMCSA has not indicated whether it will appeal or seek a stay of this ruling, which takes effect in September 14, 2007, unless the court orders otherwise. However, the American Trucking Associations has indicated it will seek a stay of the order to give the agency time to provide an explanation for the two provisions.
Employers’ Bottom Line:
Because the ruling does not take effect until September, the 11-hour daily driving limit and 34-hour restart provision are still in effect. However, if no action is taken to stay the decision, on September 14, the daily driving limit will be reduced to 10 hours per day and the 34-hour restart provision will be eliminated.
If you have any questions regarding the issues addressed in this Alert or any other labor or employment related decisions, please contact the Ford & Harrison attorney with whom you usually work.