FMCSA sued over upcoming Hours of Service rule changes

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is facing a lawsuit over upcoming changes to truck driver Hours of Service regulations from groups who say that highway safety is at risk.

The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday, September 16, in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as well as several highway safety groups — Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH).

The lawsuit challenges an Hours of Service Final Rule that debuted in June 2020 and will go into effect on September 29, 2020. The groups argue that the HOS rule changes are not backed by data and that they will increase driver fatigue.

“Under the guise of increased flexibility, the changes will further exacerbate the already well-known threat of fatigue among commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers by significantly weakening current HOS rules. Specifically, provisions that ensured drivers receive a brief 30-minute break after being on duty for eight hours and that govern the operations of drivers who start and return to the same location and remain within a defined geographic area known as “short haul” operations were significantly altered. In proposing these revisions, the FMCSA contradicted its own prior conclusions on these very issues and failed to undertake a proper analysis of the impacts the rule will have on truck drivers and the motoring public,” the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said in a press release.

Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa said, “By issuing this HOS regulation FMCSA has bowed to special trucking industry interests at the expense of highway safety, seeking longer workdays for drivers who are already being pushed to the limit.  We join this lawsuit to ensure that our members and their families are protected from fatigued drivers when they use our nation’s highways.”

The four key changes to HOS regulations set to go into effect September 29 are outlined below.

  • The Agency will increase safety and flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by requiring a break after 8 hours of consecutive driving and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not driving status, rather than off-duty status.
  • The Agency will modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 split, or a 7/3 split—with neither period counting against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.
  • The Agency will modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
  • The Agency will change the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on‑duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

The lawsuit does not prevent the HOS changes from going into effect at the end of the month.