Wow! It’s a bad week to work in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s legal department. For the second time in a week, FMCSA has found itself the target of a lawsuit, this time about hours of service. A coalition of motor carrier associations including ATA and OOIDA has launched an attack on a number of the new provisions due to go into effect in 2013.

In the suit, the associations argue that FMCSA did not create the regulations with solid reasoning and logic and instead distorted data and information to make it look like a change in regulations was needed. ATA claims that the 2004 hours of service regulations (the current ones) work best at improving safety and should be kept as is. FMCSA has sought to change those regulations, with the new rules due to go into effect by July of 2013.

The key provisions that ATA and OOIDA are objection to are:

  • Limiting the 34-hour restart to once a week;
  • Requiring two rest periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. in each restart period; and
  • Drivers being forced to take a 30 minute break every eight hours.

ATA’s core argument is that FMCSA justified these new rules by constructing a cost-benefit analysis that was tilted in the favor of writing new regulations. In other words, FMCSA decided they wanted new regulations and made the data fit that model, rather than approaching this problem rationally. For example, the suit cites FMCSA claimed that fatigue caused 13% of crashes, thereby justifying the need for revised regulations. According to ATA and OOIDA, in the past, FMCSA has claimed that fatigue is only responsible for 2% of crashes.

It should be a very interesting fall; while ATA and OOIDA are fighting against these provisions, always remember there are ‘safety advocates’ from outside the industry who are fighting just as hard for them (and then demand more, stricter provisions). On top of that, FMCSA has conflicting orders from Congress, some demanding increased safety measures, some demanding less.

We’ll have to wait and see where this is going to take us…