August 7, 2007 9:35 AM, EDT

Editorial: Repairing the HOS Rule

This editorial appears in the August 6 print edition of Transport Topics

It’s unfortunate that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted to vacate portions of the newest hours-of-service rule put forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

But, we believe that FMCSA can meet the court’s objections without much hassle or delay.

In a letter to Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said, “While ATA is disappointed with the decision, we are encouraged by the fact that the shortcomings identified by the court are procedural in nature and can be readily addressed by FMCSA.”

ATA asked Secretary Peters to push immediately for a stay of the court’s ruling so as to minimize the disruption to the nation’s freight transportation system as FMCSA moves to comply with the ruling.

Graves urged Peters, “first and foremost,” to file “a timely motion with the court, requesting either a stay of the decision or a remand [to FMCSA] without the court vacating the 11-hour driving rule or the 34-hour restart provision.”

He wrote that there was “no compelling safety reason” to eliminate either provision and that trucking safety has improved since the rules were adopted.

Also, drivers have reported positive results under the new rules.

ATA noted that the number of deaths from truck-related crashes declined 4.7% during 2006, based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the largest decline in 14 years.

Though the new rule permits one additional hour of driving in a workday, it also mandates two additional hours of rest for drivers.

A study by the American Transportation Research Institute found that most drivers reported they experienced less fatigue and preferred the 11 hours of driving and 10 hours off, along with the 34-hour restart provision.

It’s taken the Department of Transportation and FMCSA many years to get this far on the modernization of the work rules for commercial drivers, and we urge the agencies not to let all those efforts be for nothing.

Let’s fix the rules in a way that meets the court’s objections and get back to the industry’s primary task: moving the nation’s freight in a safe and efficient manner.