OOIDA goes to court to challenge Hours of Service

March 1, 2006
The Owner-Operator Independent Driver's Association (OOIDA) has filed a court challenge requesting review of the new Hours of Service regulations. The

The Owner-Operator Independent Driver's Association (OOIDA) has filed a court challenge requesting review of the new Hours of Service regulations. The trade group, which says it represents more than 133,000 independent truck drivers in the U.S. and Canada, originally petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) last August for two changes to the split sleeperberth provision, but the FMCSA denied the petition in December. The denial resulted in OOIDA deciding to take the matter to court.

While the FMCSA has seen numerous organizations object to the HOS on the grounds that the rules inadequately address safety concerns, OOIDA's main point of contention is that drivers are now being penalized if they split up their required 10 hours of off-duty time. The rules say that if a driver splits up the required 10 hours of off-duty time, one of the two periods-must be at least eight hours. The on-duty clock is stopped during those eight hours, but if the driver takes the other off-duty hours at another time, the clock is not stopped again.

"We're simply asking that those two hours would also stop the clock, that the driver could take those off-duty and not count against his working time," says Jim Johnston, president and CEO of OOIDA. What's happening, he notes, is that those two hours are counted as part of the 14 hours of maximum time on duty. "We think it's commonsense because it's consistent with the 10-hour offduty requirement."

Ironically, OOIDA is requesting the possibility of more on-duty time for drivers, while various public safety groups already think a driver's workday is far too long.

OOIDA is also asking for a restoration of the sleeper-berth exemption for team drivers, "which allowed the drivers to take sleeper-berth time in whatever increments they wanted, as long as no period was less than two hours," Johnston notes. The current rules, however, stipulate that team drivers have to take a minimum of eight consecutive hours off in the sleeper berth. "That's impractical for most team operations," Johnston says.

According to Johnston, the California Trucking Association plans to piggyback on OOIDA's suit, and other trucking groups could follow.

OOIDA currently is awaiting a response from the court to decide how to proceed next.

Meanwhile, less than a week after OOIDA filed its petition, Annette Sandberg, administrator of the FMCSA, announced she would resign her position as of March 1. The frequent HOS challenges were hardly the extent of Sandberg's challenges, as the FMCSA was also recently criticized by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) for failing to meet a consistent level of quality standards in the way it reports data on motor carrier crashes. And last December, the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the FMCSA's training rules for truck and bus drivers and instructed the agency to rewrite the rules, in a tartly worded decision reminiscent of the disdain the Court had when it tossed out the 2003 HOS rules.

Sandberg's tenure at the FMCSA lasted three years.

Read more about Hours of Service rules at: www.logisticstoday.com/regulation.