Teamsters and safety groups challenge Hours of Service rules again

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, along with a number of political action safety groups such as Public Citizen, CRASH (Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways), Parents Against Tired Truckers and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, have filed a challenge to the new Hours of Service (HOS) regulations recently issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Read “Hours of Service 2005: The adventure continues”

Together they have filed a Petition for Reconsideration asking the FMCSA to re-evaluate several aspects of the new rule, which is to take effect on October 1, 2005.

“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,” says Jim Hoffa, Teamsters general president. “This new rule is almost identical to the current rule and the two additional changes they made — the sleeper berth modification and the new short haul provision put our drivers at greater risk.”

The Teamsters union is also filing its own separate petition to address the sleeper berth modification because of the effect it has on team drivers using the sleeper cab. The new provision requires an eight-hour rest period, which the union claims forces a team driver to rest for eight hours in a moving truck, with engine noise, vibration and other distractions around them. The current rules require two rest periods with one being at least two hours long. Most team drivers now split their rest periods into two, five-hour stints, the Teamsters claim.

“The only thing this will do is force team drivers to drive for eight hours straight, causing drivers to be more fatigued,” Hoffa says.

The coalition petition takes issue with the FMCSA over the new short haul provision — a change that could potentially force hundreds of thousands of delivery drivers, operating within a 150-mile air radius of their reporting station, into a 14-hour on-duty period, with two 16-hour days allowed in a seven-day period.

These drivers would not be required to keep logbooks of their time behind the wheel. The Teamsters and safety groups fought a similar legislative proposal when Congress considered the highway bill earlier this year. The petition also argues against the 34-hour restart — a provision that resets the driver’s clock after a 34-hour rest period. In a seven-day period, this puts drivers behind the wheel 14 hours longer with less rest than the old rules.

The petition also takes issue with the agency for keeping the 11-hour driving time, an additional hour than previously allowed under the old HOS rules.

“It’s clear that the corporate trucking interests have gotten from the FMCSA what they’ve been unable to get in Congress,” Hoffa says. “The agency has turned a blind eye to protecting the health of truck drivers and the safety of the traveling public.”

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