Appeals court throws out truckers' hours-of-service rule

Appeals court throws out truckers' hours-of-service rule

WASHINGTON -- The federal government's revised hours of service regulations for the nation's 3 million long-haul truck drivers were ruled illegal because they were "arbitrary and capricious."

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said the government "neglected to consider a statutorily mandated factor of the impact of the rule on the health of drivers."

The judges vacated the rule "in its entirety" and sent it back to the government for revision. The ruling can be appealed to the full appellate court.

The verdict is a victory for safety advocates, who had sued the government over the changes.

The new regulations formulated by the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration represented the first revision of drivers' hours of service in 65 years.

In a rule that took effect on Jan. 4, drivers' hours of service on-duty time was reduced from 15 hours to 14 hours in any 24-hour period. Actual driving time was increased one hour from 10 to 11 hours. The industry had largely adapted to the ruling, although some drivers complained their pay was reduced because of the ruling.

Besides the government's failure to consider the effect of the rule on drivers' health, the court panel noted "a complete absence of any discussion" of the subject in the ruling.

That failure "leaves us with no alternative but to conclude that (the agency) failed to take account of this statutory limit on (its) authority,"

the court ruled.

It also noted other concerns about the FMCSA's ruling, including the legality of increasing daily driving hours, its justification for a sleeper-berth exemption and a 34-hour restart. It called the legal justification for such measures "problematic."