As a Missouri trucking accident attorney, I strongly support the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s upcoming new rules limiting truck drivers’ hours of service. Though the HOS rules are opposed by some in the safety industry as too weak, the trucking industry also opposes them as unnecessarily strong, and has filed a lawsuit to stop their implementation. That dispute spawned a series of letters between the FMCSA and the American Trucking Associations in the past week. As Heavy Duty Trucking magazine reported March 1, the FMCSA’s chief attorney rejected a request from the ATA to delay the July 1 start date for the new HOS rules to October 1. The ATA and other trucking-industry organizations are also suing the FMCSA in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., where oral arguments are scheduled for March 15.
The new HOS rules reduce truckers’ total hours of service on the road from 82 per week to 70; retain an 11-hour daily maximum; and require a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving, as well as that two overnights per week be taken between 1 and 5 a.m. It also requires one 34-hour “weekend” per seven days. The FMCSA’s goal is to reduce driver fatigue and thereby prevent accidents. Despite this, it faces opposition from both the trucking industry—which stands to lose money if it can’t push its drivers harder—and safety and trucker advocacy groups that would prefer a 10-hour maximum. The federal lawsuit is set to be heard March 15, and the court’s decisions typically come two to three months later. That means the rule’s fate won’t be known until about a month before it would go into effect.
That was the basis for the complaint by ATA, which asked the FMCSA to delay implementation in a letter dated Jan. 25. It argued that without the delay, trucking companies, regulators and others would have to spend time and up to $320 million learning to comply with a rule that might not be implemented. The FMCSA replied that it didn’t believe a delay was warranted, citing the test typically used by courts to determine whether to legally block a new rule. After the request was rejected, the ATA responded that the FMCSA is not a court of law and that the actual courts have not always sided with the agency. A similar request for delay by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance was also rejected.
Because I deal every day with families devastated by accidents with large commercial trucks, I believe declining the delay was the best choice. As a St. Louis tractor-trailer accident lawyer, I agree with safety advocates that more restrictive HOS rules would have been better—but these rules are still an improvement. (The virulent trucking industry objections could be considered proof of this.) It’s true that businesses lose money by complying with safety regulations, but that’s the price of living in a safe society. Most drivers would agree that it’s worth paying slightly more for goods shipped by truck in order to avoid a serious accident with an overly fatigued driver. And driver fatigue absolutely does matter. As a southern Illinois semi truck accident attorney, I know extreme fatigue can affect a driver just as badly as a 0.08% blood-alcohol level—and nobody wants a legally drunk person driving a two-ton truck.
If your family has suffered a loss or a grave injury in a crash with a large commercial truck, you should call Carey, Danis & Lowe today to discuss your legal options. You can reach us through our website or call 1-877-678-3400 today.
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