Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Associations, has requested a delay in the compliance date for the nationwide hours of service regulations due to pending litigation.
In a letter to Anne Ferro of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Graves wrote that while the ATA’s challenge to the new rules is pending in a court of appeals, a delay in the compliance date would prevent duplicate and unnecessary training. Compliance, he wrote, should begin three months after the court’s decision is passed down.
Graves noted that this delay will have little impact on highway safety, but will prevent confusion if the court’s decision impacts the law. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 15.
As of now, all carriers are to comply with the new rules, which limit the number of consecutive hours drivers can operate their vehicles, starting July 1.
Graves said FMCSA itself found the industry needed more training time before the rule took effect and while software updates and training are well underway, some entities haven’t fully developed their training programs. ATA members have told Graves that official programs will begin three months before the compliance date, and FMCSA isn’t scheduled to deliver the necessary training materials until, at the earliest, April.
“It would be a waste of industry, FMCSA, and enforcement community resources to require training based on the final rule beginning in April of 2013 only to have that rule altered in some manner via the court’s decision in mid-May or early June,” Graves wrote.
If the court’s decision is not reached by June, Graves said he would petition for an expedited decision to get the hours of service issue settled as soon as possible.
ATA first brought a challenge to the rules on Feb. 14, 2012, saying the earlier 2003 driver service rule was completely adequate and safe. According to ATA, there had been no evidence that truck safety decreased since the earlier rule was adopted.
Arguing against the proposed rule changes, the organization first said FMCSA’s impact analysis didn’t prove there was a net benefit to the rule change. As part of that, ATA said the analysis overestimated the number of crashes due to driver fatigue and FMCSA didn’t consider the cost impact the rule change would have on shippers. ATA also argued the new rules are a supply chain burden and its sleep and rest requirements might have a negative impact on the industry and, ironically, safety.
“During the over eight years of real-world experience under the 2003 rule, the operational safety of commercial trucking has improved markedly,” ATA wrote in its court brief. “The burden on anyone seeking to make changes to the rule, be it the FMCSA or other interested parties, is to demonstrate clearly that the rule will produce far more safety benefits than has already been realized, while not imposing significant costs that will burden manufacturers, shippers, and consumers alike.” - Jon Ross