The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) has officially denied the request from the American Trucking Association (“ATA”) and other groups (primarily shipper groups) to delay the implementation of the new Hours of Service (“HOS”) rule changes until three months after federal court renders its decision in current HOS litigation. Unless other options are found, this means that the hours of service changes will be implemented as originally stated, on July 1, 2013.
The challenge to the updated HOS regulations centers on allowing use of the 34-hour restart only once a week, with each restart to include time off between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. for two straight days, as well as the provision requiring drivers to take a half-hour break after no more than eight hours of driving.
The three-month delay would have given an appeals court time to render its decision on requests made by the ATA and other trucking groups to prevent the new regulations from going into effect. Oral arguments in the case are set for March 15. It’s not uncommon for courts to take at least a couple of months to render a decision.
In response to a late January letter from ATA president Bill Graves, FMCSA Chief Counsel T.F. Scott Darling III denied a request to delay compliance with the new HOS rules. Darling opined that the FMCSA does not believe that ATA demonstrated a good cause to delay the compliance date of the rule, stating that the “[m]ere uncertainty over the possible outcome of the litigation…does not create likelihood that the industry or the enforcement community will suffer harm due to wasted training resources or confusion.” The letter goes on to say that ATA’s request does not meet the legal criteria necessary for a judicial stay to the HOS rule changes. Darling said that the FMCSA is not willing “to sacrifice what may be several months of public safety benefits from the timely implementation of the rule.”
The ATA does not agree with the FMCSA’s position. Replying to the FMCSA response, the ATA wrote that the rule’s implementation — in the face of legal uncertainty because of ATA’s pending suit against FMCSA over several of the rule’s provisions — would lead to costs that “will have been irrevocably squandered” should the court agree with ATA, either in whole or in part. The ATA has indicated that the FMCSA’s decision not to delay implementation of the new HOS rules will cost the trucking industry about $320 million between now and July 1.