A coalition of 15 industry groups filed suit in federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to block the Obama Administration's attempt to change regulations governing commercial truck driver operations. The group included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, NASSTRAC, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, and the National Retail Federation.
"For industries and carriers charged with delivering fresh food, keeping assembly lines running, and making deliveries, this rule is concerning and will hurt the economy," said Rick Schweitzer, counsel for the coalition. "With the lack of evidence that it will improve safety, moving forward with this rule will only create more uncertainties in an already cumbersome regulatory environment."
The 15 industry groups, which represent most sectors of the U.S. economy, said the Hours of Service (HOS) Rules were crafted without considering the costs they would impose on the supply chain. Industry groups have long argued that major changes in driver work rules would disrupt supply chains that have been calibrated to work with the regulations now in effect.
They also maintain the trucking industry is operating as safely today as it has since records were being kept, and there is no need to impose additional regulations that will drive up costs without having an appreciable benefit on highway safety.
Tuesday's action comes one week after the American Trucking Associations (ATA) also took legal action to oppose the controversial measure.
BATTLING CONTROVERSIAL CHANGES
The Final HOS Rule, issued last December by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), is scheduled to take effect next July. However, the Rule was expected all along to face major legal challenges that could delay implementation well beyond next year and might result in the regulations' being changed or even scrapped.
Jonathan Gold, vice president, supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation, said the group's intent is to have the December policy directive thrown out and to keep the rules currently in effect.
The Final Rule maintain an 11-hour limit on the amount of continuous time a driver can be behind the wheel. The FMCSA had toyed with the idea of reducing the limit on continuous driving hours to 10, a move that provoked an outcry from shippers and truckers who warned that the change would disrupt carefully crafted supply chains built around 11-hour continuous drive times.
The rule limits a driver's workweek to 70 hours within a seven-day period, down from 82 hours. In addition, drivers cannot drive after working eight hours until they take at least a 30-minute break.
But by far the rule's most controversial provision requires drivers working the maximum number of weekly hours to take at least two rest periods—between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.—during a 34-hour "restart" period. Under this provision, drivers may restart the clock on their workweeks by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. The Final Rule allows drivers to use the restart provision only once during a seven-day period.
Industry groups say the language would increase wait times for drivers to return to work and would put more trucks on the road with passenger cars during morning rush hours, causing severe traffic congestion and putting lives unnecessarily at risk. The groups said there is no scientific evidence that the change in the so-called restart provision will improve highway safety.