First it looked as though the trucking industry would be going back to the old driver hours-of-service regulations, the ones in place before a revised version kicked in earlier this year. Just months after the new HOS regs had taken effect, they were overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals. The court sided with public interest group Public Citizen, which had filed a lawsuit charging that the current regulations "failed to consider the impact of the rules on the health of the drivers."
But now that's looking less like a sure thing. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has filed a motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals seeking a stay against the decision. (At press time, the court had not ruled on the request.) Staying the court's decision would allow FMCSA at least six months to address and correct the court's concerns about the revised hours-of-service rule. If granted, the motion would mean the new HOS rule would remain in effect for the time being.
At least one industry group supports the FMCSA's request for a stay. In a letter to FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg, National Industrial Transportation League President John Ficker stated the group's position that the rules "…enacted on January 4th of this year were a significant change from past rules and provided for a safer environment for all highway users, both motor carriers and motorists." NITL argued that an abrupt change in the regulations would penalize not just carriers, but also the many shippers that had made costly adjustments to their operations. "The change not only affected motor carriers, but also companies that use motor carriers to deliver their products and receive their raw materials," Ficker said. "Parties adjusted their processes and their operating systems to accommodate these new rules. This involved significant time and expense on the part of the parties."
Sources close to the FMSCA say the agency might be ready to release amended HOS regulations in early 2005.