New Trucking Rules Take Effect, Face Industry Legal Challenge
As road safety advocates hail the arrival of new federal regulations intended to reduce truck driver fatigue, the American Trucking Associations and trade groups from other industries await a court decision on their challenge to the rules.
Eighteen months after they were first announced, new federal regulations designed to improve the safety of the nation’s roadways by reducing truck driver fatigue took full effect earlier this week. Meanwhile, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling on the legality of the regulations is pending in a lawsuit brought by the American Trucking Associations (ATA).
“These fatigue-fighting rules for truck drivers were carefully crafted based on years of scientific research and unprecedented stakeholder outreach,” said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator Anne S. Ferro in the statement announcing the regulations. “The result is a fair and balanced approach that will result in an estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from improved driver health. Most importantly, it will save lives.”FMCSA)
The agency estimates that the new rules will save 19 lives and prevent 400 crashes and 560 injuries per year.
Among other changes, the new regulations limit the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours (a decrease from 82 hours), require a “restart” or rest period of 34 consecutive hours for drivers who reach the 70-hour threshold, and require truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.
“These provisions will improve the current situation, even if only incrementally,” Joan Claybrook, consumer cochair of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said last month in a statement at a House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing on the impact of the hours-of-service regulations. “Truck driver fatigue remains a serious problem that is killing and injuring too many motorists and truck drivers.”
The final hours-of-service rule—which retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit, and 14-hour work day—has been hotly contested by the trucking industry and other groups.
“FMCSA’s motivation to change these rules was not based on evidence demonstrating a problem,” Steve Williams, a past chairman of ATA and the current chairman of the American Transportation Research Institute, said in a statement on ATA’s website. “The industry will lose operating flexibility and productivity, and the rules will increase driver stress and frustration.”
Williams predicted that the industry would see a 1.5 to 4 percent reduction in productivity that could translate to “between $500 million and $1.4 billion in lost productivity.”
ATA sued the FMCSA last year, seeking to block the new rules. In an amici curiae brief filed by the American Bankers Association and more than a dozen other associations in transportation and other industries, the groups argued that the changes are “arbitrary and capricious” and said they could hurt jobs and have a negative impact on agriculture, manufacturers, the retail supply chain, and distributors.
A decision is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.