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D.C. appeals court sides with feds, ends truckers’ HOS challenges

We noted in a recent blog post (please see our July 2 entry) the longstanding acrimony that has existed between the commercial trucking industry in Ohio and nationally and federal regulators who enact so-called “hours of service” rules governing drivers’ maximum work weeks and sleep periods.

Such rules — long regarded as gross interference in industry affairs by truckers and trucking officials alike — have been met at virtually every juncture by a strong industry response in the courts. The American Trucking Associations, for example, has repeatedly challenged drive-time restrictions over the years, dismissing claims from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that limitations reduce truck accidents and save billions of dollars each year.

Those arguments now seem finally curtailed, with a ruling earlier this month from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia quashing ATA claims on hours-of-service matters.

The ruling puts an end to many years of court battles and successive challenges to agency authority, with one FMCSA spokesperson stating in the decision’s wake that the new rules aimed at reducing driver fatigue will soon begin yielding strongly positive results. Both the agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration state that overly tired commercial truck drivers are catalysts in about 13 percent of crashes involving big rigs.

Following the ruling, the ATA lamented what it called the court’s “unlimited deference” to agency arguments and findings. The trucking industry postulates that the changes will be prohibitively expensive and might actually increase accident risks through the need to put many more truckers on the road to compensate for the reduced driving hours of current truckers.

Source: Bloomberg, “Trucking industry loses challenge to U.S. drive-time rule,” Tom Schoenberg & Jeff Plungis, Aug. 2, 2013