Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hours of Service: Here We Go Again

TTnews: Court Issues Split Ruling on Drivers’ Hours of Service Rule
A federal court issued a split ruling Tuesday on the government’s rules governing truck driver hours of service, rejecting a petition by a group representing owner-operators but granting a separate request by a public safety advocate group.

.....“We are analyzing the decision issued today to understand the court’s findings as well as determine the agency’s next steps to prevent driver fatigue, ensure safe and efficient motor carrier operations and save lives,” FMCSA said. “This decision does not go into effect until Sept. 14, unless the court orders otherwise.”

The court vacated the portions of the rule that extended the maximum allowable driving time to 11 hours from the previous limit of 10, and eliminated the so-called 34-hour restart, which allows drivers to reset their maximum allowable hours in a week.

The ruling maintains the limit for drivers’ work time of 14 consecutive hours. Previously, the agency had allowed drivers to work for 15 hours per day, but had let them clock on and off duty.

Not much of a surprise. The administration seemed to be unwilling to admit "no means no" the last time the rules were thrown out as arbitrary and capricious. Perhaps they will create a rule centered on safety this time (there were some improvements from the old rule, but not enough). It's problematic when you admit you are going to kill more people with your new rule, but the value of their sacrifice will be outweighed by the cost savings for shippers. Myself I think a simple rule is better, the current system (no more than 14 hours working/11 hours driving then 10 consecutive hours off [unless you split break], 70 hours in 6 days/80 hours in 7 days [except after 34 hours off] is a mess. All that and it does not address circadian rhythm. EOBRs tied to the truck and GPS are essential to make whatever rule they impose mean something.

Of course the Supreme Court has changed since last time the rules were rejected by the DC circuit so perhaps this time they will go for broke.

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