In a long-awaited ruling, on August 6 a federal appeals court upheld most provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Hours of Service rule, pointing to shortcomings in the agency’s process but stating that it would defer to the government on what it characterized as “highly technical points best left to [FMCSA].”
The ruling disappointed both plaintiffs: the American Trucking Associations on one hand and Public Citizen on the other.
Upholding the requirement that the general population of drivers take a 30-minute break before eight hours of driving and restrictions on the timing of the 34-hour “restart” period drivers must observe to reset their weekly driving limits, the court did overturn one provision: it exempted short-haul drivers from the 30-minute break provision.
In terms of “short-haul drivers,” that portion of the decision affects:
drivers who operate only within a 150-air-mile radius of a home terminal
drivers who return to that terminal on a regular basis, and
drivers who do not require a commercial driver license.
The HOS rule has been in force since July 1, and FMCSA immediately indicated it would adjust its implementation procedures to comply with the court’s decision.
In July, a group of four Republican Congressmen had indicated that they would propose an amendment to an Appropriations bill to block implementation of the Hours Of Service rule through September 30, 2014. Presumably, momentum to support that proposal would depend on whether either of the plaintiffs intends to appeal the court’s decision further.