The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has denied a request to delay the start date of its new hours-of-service rules, reinforcing that the new requirements will begin July 1, pending current litigation.
On Jan. 25, American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves requested in a letter that the Transportation Department agency delay the beginning of the rules by three months to ensure enough separation between the judgment of ATA's court challenge and the official start date. Arguments in the case are scheduled for March 15.
In the letter, Graves wrote a three-month delay would have little impact on highway safety, but will prevent confusion if the court’s decision impacts the law. Graves also pointed out that FMCSA itself found the industry needed more training time before the rule took effect; while software updates and training are well underway, he noted, some entities haven’t fully developed their training programs. ATA members have told Graves 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.
Graves received a response from FMCSA on Feb. 22 that determined a stay of compliance was not warranted because the ATA failed to demonstrate “good cause” to delay the rule change. The agency countered that the public safety benefits gained from immediate implementation are not worth sacrificing.
The main reason for the FMCSA’s denial, however, is the ATA failed to present any reason for a stay under criteria commonly applied by courts. Stays are granted if either party can show that immediate implementation would cause public harm or potential damage to other parties, among other reasons.
Dave Osiecki, ATA’s senior vice president for policy and regulatory affairs, said the response notes FCMSA didn’t even acknowledge what ATA stressed was a "good cause" for the delay. And instead of asking for an official stay, the ATA, he said, was looking for FMCSA to give the industry a bit of extra time in good faith.
“Their decision to apply irrelevant standards makes it clear that FMCSA isn’t interested in giving a fair hearing to the industry’s reasonable requests,” he said.
Osiecki ultimately expressed disappointment that FCMSA has refused to delay the hours of service changes until after a ruling by the D.C. court. Osiecki sees this as a waste of time and money for shippers, carriers and other supply chain partners. He also pointed out that a three-month delay from that date caused by ATA’s good-faith request would have only put off the new rule for a negligible period of time, but that little bit of time would have helped the industry immeasurably.
“Especially in the current economic climate, carriers and shippers can ill afford to squander resources on a moving target like this," he said. "We’re disappointed that FMCSA is willing to risk squandering public training and enforcement funds this way.”
The ATA first brought a challenge to the proposed hours of service rule change 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. On July 1, all carriers are to comply with the new rules, which limit the number of consecutive hours drivers can operate their vehicles. - Jon Ross