While many in the industry expected the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and Public Citizen to mount a new court challenge to the Hours of Service Rules (HOS) released in August and scheduled to go into effect just six weeks later, the IBT was joined by a number of groups in filing a petition with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on September 23rd asking the FMCSA to reconsider the rules. A spokesman for the FMCSA said the Petition of Reconsideration is a formal means allowing groups like the IBT to request an agency reconsider a rulemaking.
The petition points out, in the view of groups submitting it, FMCSA, when faced with considerations of cost/benefit vs. safety, it chose a direction in the rulemaking that would favor “economic efficiencies that benefit the trucking industry” over safety.
Teamsters General President James Hoffa said, “We are extremely disappointed that the agency basically issued the same HOS rule that was thrown out by the federal court because that version didn’t consider the health of the driver.” Hoffa said the two significant changes to the rule put drivers at greater risk.
The sleeper berth modification does not allow drivers to split their time in the sleeper berth as had been the practice under the previous rules. As Hoffa explained, it was common for team drivers to split their 10-hour rest period into two five-hour periods. Now drivers will be required to take one period of at least eight hours in the sleeper berth. This means, according to Hoffa, team drivers will be required to drive for the longer eight-hour period and risk becoming more fatigued.
The Teamsters also called for revision of the short-haul provision, which allows drivers two 16-hour days during a seven-day period, two hours longer than the maximum 14-hour day for other drivers.
Though the petition is not a court challenge, it does not preclude the Teamsters and other opponents of the new rules from filing a lawsuit.
The FMCSA declined to comment on the petition, saying it does not comment on petitions that have been filed until a decision is rendered.
The federal appeals court ruling that required FMCSA to reexamine the rulemaking had stated the FMCSA did not effectively establish a link between the rules and driver health. In announcing the rulemaking in August, FMCSA administrator Annette Sandburg said, “We developed the new Hours of Service Rule with the priority in mind of reducing fatigue-related truck crashes.” Pointing out that fatigue-related crashes accounted for only 5.5% of large truck crashes, Sandburg stated, “Based on the available research, other data and information, the agency concluded that these rules will not adversely affect the physical condition of the driver.”
At that time, Sandburg pointed out, “We developed this rule on the basis of safety first and foremost, but we try never to lose sight of the operational realities of our complex national transportation system.”