Trucking groups challenge new hours-of-service rules in court

In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration drafted changes to the rules governing when commercial truck drivers can drive and when they are required to take legally mandated rest breaks. These are commonly called the hours-of-service rules.

In calling for the changes, the FMCSA wanted to prevent drowsy driving and truck driver fatigue that is often responsible for devastating and fatal truck accidents. The new HOS rules are set to take effect on July 1 of this year, but that may change due to a legal challenge of the rules made by the American Trucking Associations.

Earlier this month, the ATA brought its arguments before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. An attorney for the ATA argued that “The existing rules have a proven track record, and the agency’s purported reasons for tinkering with them were baseless. We’re hopeful the judges will see through the agency’s mere pleas for deference and after-the-fact explanations for a rule that was agenda-driven rather than evidence-based.”

Because the Court’s ruling is not expected until June, the ATA and others have asked the FMCSA to delay the implementation date by three months. That way, if the court throws out the HOS rule changes, trucking companies will not need to spend money and time on compliance and enforcement training.

Critics of the HOS rules changes allege that they are inflexible and impractical, and will place such onerous restrictions on truck drivers that they may not be able to make deliveries on time.

But fatigued truck drivers are dangerous and deadly to all other motorists on the road. Even a few moments of drifting off behind the wheel of a big rig can cause a chain reaction of car accidents leading to dozens of deaths and injuries. Hopefully, the Court will rule to uphold these important changes governing truck driver hours of service.

Sources:, “Top House transport committee members ask LaHood to delay implementation of new HOS,” Mar. 20, 2013, “U.S. Appeals Court Hears ATA Challenge to HOS Rules,” Sean McNally, Mar. 15, 2013