WASHINGTON — A U.S. appeals court on Friday upheld the majority of new federal hours of service rules, but rejected a 30-minute rest requirement for short-haul drivers, potentially ending a vicious and drawn-out battle between the trucking industry and regulators.
The new rules, which took effect on July 1, require truck drivers to take a 30-minute break after working eight consecutive hours and limit the use of a 34-hour restart provision designed to get drivers back on the road more quickly after completing a week’s work. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules are expected to tighten truck capacity, resulting in higher costs for shippers.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decision responds to two challenges. The ATA challenged the rules in federal court, arguing a change in truck driver hours of service was unwarranted based on recent improvements in truck safety and wasn't supported by scientific data. The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen, and the Truck Safety Coalition also challenged the rules, arguing they didn't go far enough to ensure truck safety.
“It is often said the third time’s a charm,” Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote. “That may well be true in this case, the third of its kind to be considered by the Circuit. With one small exception, our decision today brings to an end much of the permanent warfare surrounding the HOS rules. Though FMCSA won the day not on the strengths of its rulemaking prowess, but through an artless war of attrition, the controversies of this round are ended.”
The FMCSA estimates the new work rules will prevent 1,400 crashes, 560 injuries and 19 deaths a year, with an estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from reduced fatigue and improved truck driver health.