Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Teamsters Commend Decision to Fix Hours of Service Rule

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa today said he is pleased that federal regulators agreed to reform the hours of service rule for truck drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) signed an agreement with safety advocates and the Teamsters Union to revise the hours of service rule issued last November. The rule, a "midnight regulation" made final in the waning days of the Bush administration, extended the hours truckers can drive from 10 hours to 11 hours.

"We will continue to push for a rule that protects truck drivers, instead of the greed of the trucking industry," Hoffa said. "Longer hours behind the wheel are dangerous for our members and the driving public."

The rule was struck down twice by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court.

But in defiance of the court and in subservience to the trucking industry, the FMCSA reinstated it as an interim final rule in late 2007 and as a final rule about a year later.

The percentage of fatal crashes that result from driver fatigue rose 20 percent in 2005 from 2004 -- the first year in which the longer hours of driving were allowed.

"It's time for FMCSA to do what Congress has told it to do all along -- protect drivers' health and safety," Hoffa said.

The Bush rule raised the number of hours truckers can drive from 10 to 11 consecutive hours each shift, and from 60 to 77 hours of driving each week. The rule cut off-duty rest and recovery time at the workweek's end from 50 or more hours off-duty to as little as 34 hours off-duty.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) first promulgated the 11-hour rule in 2003, increasing the number of hours truckers can drive. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the rule in 2004, but Congress reinstated it as part of the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2004.

FMCSA issued a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in January 2005, proposing a rule that was little changed from the 2003 rule that had been struck down.

On July 24, 2007, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for the second time threw out the rule that increased driving time to 11 hours from 10 hours and allowed drivers to go back to work after being off-duty for only 34 hours.

In the 39-page opinion, Judge Merrick Garland called the rule "arbitrary and capricious."

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters was a party in the case, joining Public Citizen and the Owner-Operator Independent Driver's Association.

The deadline for the court's July decision to go into effect was Sept. 14. But legal challenges pushed that deadline back. FMCSA issued the interim final rule on Dec. 11, 2007.

The court declined on Jan. 23 to enforce its order to strike the rule, and the Bush administration issued it as a final rule on Nov. 19.

The Teamsters -- along with Public Citizen, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Truck Safety Coalition -- challenged the rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

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