Shipper groups are making their voices heard in the legal fallout from the Obama administration's new rules governing truck driver operations, but they are coming at their positions from different directions.
The National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council, commonly known as NASSTRAC, said Tuesday it has joined the American Trucking Associations' (ATA) legal effort to maintain the requirement that drivers can operate no more than 11 consecutive hours behind the wheel. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) kept the 11-hour drive time, which has been in effect since 2003, in place when it issued its revised hours-of-service (HOS) rules in late December.
However, the public interest group Public Citizen has already filed a petition for review of the HOS rules before a federal appeals court in Washington. While the Public Citizen petition didn't state the reasons behind its request for review, shipper groups believe the group will focus its efforts on convincing the court to reduce the number of consecutive hours a driver can operate a rig.
In hearings and comments before the FMCSA, Public Citizen argued that permitting continuous 11-hour drive times creates a safety hazard and puts public safety at risk.
Meanwhile, the National Industrial Transportation League (NITL), the nation's oldest shipper group, has joined ATA in a separate appeal of language requiring drivers to take two consecutive 1 a.m.-to-5 a.m. breaks during a 34-hour restart period before starting a new workweek.
ATA and shipper groups have argued that the provision will effectively remove drivers from the road during times when highways are nearly deserted and force them onto the road during rush-hour periods when highways are jammed with motorists. The groups also contend that the change will disrupt the efficiency of supply chains that have been structured around truck hauls that occur in the middle of the night.
The FMCSA has set a compliance deadline of July 1, 2013, to allow the industry to adjust to changes in the HOS rules.
John Cutler, NASSTRAC's Washington-based attorney, said the group decided to throw its legal weight behind preserving the language governing continuous drive times because it was more relevant to its members.
NITL traditionally represents shippers of industrialized commodities. NASSTRAC has historically represented shippers in the health and personal care realm tendering smaller, high-value consignments.