Federal Appeals Court Will Hear Oral Arguments in March in Hours of Service Lawsuit

By December 28, 2012 July 17th, 2019 Trucking Regulations

As a semi truck accident attorney in Missouri, I was interested to read that a federal appeals court is set to consider a lawsuit challenging new rules limiting truckers’ hours on the road. Truckinginfo.com, the website of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine, reported that the United States Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. will hear oral arguments March 15 on challenges to new hours of service rules. The HOS rules are scheduled to take effect in July, reducing the total number of hours per week truckers may spend driving and requiring a rest break during or after the first eight hours. The law is being challenged as both too restrictive–by the trucking industry–and not restrictive enough–by safety advocates. The D.C. Circuit is expected to rule before the rules take effect.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration started the process of making new HOS rules more than a year ago. As part of its rulemaking process, the agency held six listening sessions across the United States, webcasting them as well, and invited comment from the trucking industry, truckers, safety advocates, law enforcement and the public at large. In the end, the rules reduced the total HOS per week from 82 to 70; required a 30-minute rest break during or after the first eight hours on the road; and retained an 11-hour daily maximum. The rules also require at least two nights per week of rest between 1 and 5 a.m.; the FMCSA notes that this is when the human body needs rest the most. Truck drivers can reset their week for HOS purposes by taking a 34-hour “weekend” once per seven-day period. Drivers and trucking companies both face civil penalties for violations.
The challenges from trucking industry organizations ask the court to strike four changes made since the 2004 HOS changes. The American Trucking Associations object to the decision to allow only one 34-hour reset per seven days, as well as to the requirement that the 34-hour reset include two rest periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. They also object to the requirement that truckers take a half-hour rest period after their first eight hours of driving. The safety groups, on the other hand, allege that the decision to keep the 11-hour daily maximum is unsafe. The maximum had been expanded from 10 hours in the 2004 HOS changes, and groups including Public Citizen, the Truck Safety Coalition, the Teamsters and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety argue that no data supports the expansion. Similarly, they object to the decision to keep the 34-hour reset period.
The FMCSA may well wonder if it can please anybody. Of course, as a southern Illinois tractor-trailer accident lawyer, I believe safety ought to come first, which is why I prefer the shorter daily maximum and longer “weekend” advocated by the safety groups. Interestingly, the union for truck drivers is one of the plaintiffs arguing for more safety rules, which suggests that the truck drivers themselves also stand to gain from more time off. This is no surprise; the trucking industry interests pushing for more hours on the road make more money when they can work their employees harder. Truckers themselves may need the rest, but feel pressured by employers or money worries to stay behind the wheel. As a St Louis 18-wheeler accident attorney, I know there can be deadly consequences when drivers are pushed past their limits.


Carey, Danis & Lowe focuses its practice on serious trucking accidents caused by someone else’s carelessness. If your family has suffered a loss or a serious injury you believe was avoidable, don’t wait to call us for a free consultation. You can reach us through our website or call 1-877-678-3400.
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