After two years of studies, fighting, and going back and forth, truckers now have some certainty with their restart rules. The Department of Transportation recently released their report on whether federal rules regulating trucker rest and duty hours were effective and should be upheld, or should not be implemented.
The industry has waited for this study for sometime now, in order to be able to plan for the future and have some sense of stability. Now that the report issued its findings, the whole issue should be put behind the industry. And the report was not kind to the 2013 regulations, which started the whole fight in the first place.
History of the Restart Rules
In 2013 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued rules changing trucker hours of service rules. Those regulations required truckers to rest for two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods per week, and only allowed for one 34-hour restart in a week. Of course, as soon as those new regulations were put in place there was an uproar in the industry over the changes.
Because of the intrusion, Congress got involved and made changing, or at least studying the law, a priority. As part of sweeping legislative reform, Congress demanded the FMCSA and DOT to study the effectiveness of the proposed rules, and report back. For the rules to stand, they had to show a significant improvement for the safety of truckers and other drivers on the road, and for the wellness of truckers in general.
While the study took place, the original 34 hour restart rule stayed in effect. There were a few drivers who continued on with the new rules, so that they could be studied. In the end the study showed that the new rules did not improve safety levels for truckers, and therefore the rules should not have been implemented.
Regulations in General
This rule change now seems to be a victory for industry leaders, and it is a lesson on how regulations work in general. One of the big problems with regulations is they are studied, drafted, and implemented by unelected federal officials with a working knowledge of how the trucking industry operates, but do not actually live or die by transporting goods from state to state. And because they are unelected it is not easy to hold those making the rules accountable to those whom the rules affect most.
When a bad regulation is passed, the options available to the industry to overturn them are limited. One option is to take the agency to court to have it overturned by a judge. But the requirements for making that happen are narrow and hard to meet. Another route is to lobby Congress to pass laws to change the rule, and that is what happened here. But in most cases the industry is forced to comply with every rule handed down.
Complaining about the reality of things rarely helps any situation. So it is important that a trucking company knows what actions to take and how to comply with federal, state, and local regulations. At Anderson and Yamada we exist to help trucking company stay compliant with regulations, and work as their legal counsel for other situations that arise. Contact us today so we can be your company’s partner.